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Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

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November 25, 2014

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It flew a little bit below the average basser’s radar, but last week BassFan reported that its parent company, Intermedia Outdoors, had been acquired by Kroenke Sports & Entertainment (KSE). While most sports fans might not consider Kroenke’s founder, Stan Kroenke, to be a household name like George Steinbrenner, Mark Cuban or Jerry Jones he’s an ultra powerful titan of the sports galaxy. Among other holdings, KSE owns the St. Louis Rams, the Denver Nuggets, the Colorado Avalanche, the National Lacrosse League’s Colorado Mammoth, Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids, (along with John Elway) Arena Football’s Colorado Crush, and Denver’s Pepsi Center, as well as a substantial share of Premier League football club Arsenal.

In 2012, Sports Illustrated called him “the most powerful man in sports.” They also reported that he could bench press 225 pounds 12 times (at age 65). He’s also married to Ann Walton – as in, the Waltons who founded Wal-Mart. Talk about charmed lives, he’s got one.

I don’t know how much he knows or cares about bass fishing, but he and his cohort must have some appreciation of the outdoors in general because they already owned the Outdoor Channel and a large percentage of the World Fishing Network.

Time and again, we’ve seen otherwise successful people and entities dip a toe (or more) into our world and get nothing but cold feet after a while. ESPN, for instance, bought B.A.S.S. and today’s groupthink seems to believe that they didn’t know what they had or what they could do with it – thus their exit sale about a decade later.

I’ve written about some of these failed investments, and speculated as to why they have not succeeded, but the bottom line is that plenty of smart and hyper-successful people want at least a plate at the table of bass fishing. These aren’t formerly unemployed lottery winners who buy Harleys and plastic surgery, and then elect to spend the remainder in the bait biz. These are seasoned veterans of Wall Street and industry, people like Irwin Jacobs, T. Boone Pickens, Jim Copeland and Don Logan. Every time I think that trend has run its course, another one jumps into the mix. Clearly there is some long term monster value to be mined from our little backwoods enterprise – these guys wouldn’t be stepping up to the plate otherwise. The question is who is truly going to unlock the monster.

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Roster Cuts

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November 24, 2014

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Back in the late 90s, when I worked for a big law firm, there was a partner there who spent large portions of his day reading Golf Digest. Every few hours, he’d get a cup of coffee, roam the hallways and stop and chat with anyone who was available to talk. He was a genuinely nice guy, and he was able to pursue this life of semi-leisure because a few years earlier he’d roped one of the firm’s biggest clients, an entity in his home state that generated tons of billable hours at hundreds of dollars per hour.

The client was a cash cow, and the partner didn’t have to do much to generate cash for himself. I’m sure he’d bill a few hours here and there, but because he had a hundred of us monkeys crashing on a hundred typewriters full time, all of the funds that effort generated were attributed to him. As we worked, he earned. It’s a brilliant setup, and one that enabled him to purchase an exquisite million plus dollar house, back when a million bucks really meant something.

Eventually, both his partners and his client got smart and realized that they could cut him out of the deal. One day he was catching up on Golf Digest, the next day he was out on the street looking for work.

I felt bad for him because he was a nice guy who had always been a straight shooter with me. At the same time, I couldn’t help but wonder: “What the hell had he been doing with all of that free time?” Couldn’t he have made an effort to develop additional clients? If not, shouldn’t he have been working on his skills, rather than just his golf game? Every time I think about him now, I can’t help but think of the aphorism that “If you’re coasting, you’re probably going downhill.”

I was reminded of that situation recently when FLW announced that certain major sponsors would likely not be back in 2015, and that the team deals associated with them would likewise be gone. Multiple pros who’d depended on those deals for years seemed surprised that they were now going to have to fund their tour seasons out of their own pockets if they couldn’t replace their tour-provided title sponsors. In articles about the announcement, several of the pros seemed genuinely shocked that this had happened and thoroughly confused about how or whether they’d be able to replace the expected income.

Granted, the timing of the announcement was unfortunate. If it had happened back in August or September, it would’ve given those anglers more time to seek out other deals. Make no mistake, though – there’s no good time to lose a deal. On top of that, I seem to remember that in the past some contracts had been renewed after the next year’s tournament deposits were due. Unless you’re operating under a multi-year contract, or one where you have the sole option to renew an expiring agreement, doesn’t it make sense to assume that you won’t have it back the next year? In other words, shouldn’t these pros always be planning for a rainy day?

Some of them, like Luke Clausen, have already replaced their disappearing deals with new ones (although it’s unclear whether the new ones will be more, less or equally financially rewarding). Some, like superstar veteran Larry Nixon, are sure to land on their feet one way or another. Still others may find a last-minute replacement or may have been cultivating relationships that will allow them to continue. Nevertheless, I’d bet that at some point in the not-too-distant future we’re going to hear about someone who had to go back to another profession as a result of the loss of one of these team deals. I don’t wish that on anybody – I’m sure whoever it is has a better-than-even chance of being a top flight fisherman and an all-around good guy and it’s sad to see a promising career extinguished.

On the other hand, I’m pretty sure that I won’t be surprised by who the victim/s might be. Looking down the list of the recently-disgarded, I see a few pros who despite substantial on-the-water achievements are exceptionally unsavvy when it comes to media engagement and self-promotion. While they were under the cover of their team deals, they had the security to develop skills and develop relationships that might benefit them in the future, but in some of their cases they essentially just sat around and read Golf Digest.

 

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Last Updated on Monday, 24 November 2014 10:10
 

Peace Through Superior Firepower

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November 21, 2014

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I'm going to start keeping this picture in my wallet. The next time some non-fishing do-gooder tells me that my 250 Pro XS is "too much" or "unnecessary," I'll just show them this scene from Venice Marina -- two boats which boast a total of 2100 ponies, over four times as much per boat as are strapped to the back of my Bass Cat. No wonder most of the offshore boats in Venice charge a day rate plus your fuel bill.

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Last Updated on Friday, 21 November 2014 07:42
 

A Missed Headline

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November 19, 2014

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Over the course of writing eight billion articles, blog posts and press releases over the course of the year, it’s inevitable that I’ll make some mistakes. Sometimes I’ll look back at something I wrote a few months earlier and wonder how it slipped by the editors. Other times, I’ll think of a better way to phrase something, or a question I should’ve asked, or a key point I forgot to make.

Headlines often constitute my biggest regrets. I’m not quite at the level of the New York Post (examples: “Headless Body in Topless Bar” and “Kiss Your Asteroid Goodbye”) but once in a while I come up with something that’s more clever than just punny.

A few years ago, when a couple of days of the New Orleans Bassmaster Classic were delayed due to heavy fog, competitors had to decide whether to make the long run to Venice during shortened competition days. Some of them employed radar to run through the still-soupy air.

Weeks later, I rued the fact that I had not written a story called “Venetian Blind.”

This year, after the Delaware River Elite Series tournament, Don Barone wrote a piece for Bassmaster.com criticizing those pros who’d complained about the venue. Former Angler of the Year Brent Chapman wrote a retort to many of Barone’s points. At that point, I jumped into the fray, writing a piece about why the Elites should’ve been excited to go to Philly. I gave it the accurate but somewhat cutesy and clumsy title of “In Franklin’s city, it should’ve been all about the Benjamins.

Not bad, but today I came up with something that is more concise, although a little harder to figure out and certainly less politically acceptable: “Philly Blunt.”

Not sure if it’s better than the original, but I kind of like it.

I can’t predict what sort of headline needs I’ll have in 2015, but I’m already working on Havasu wordplay just in case.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 November 2014 13:53
 

Throw Up on the Bank

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November 18, 2014

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There are many phrases that get bandied about in bass fishing that wouldn’t make it far in polite company. In what other sport can you say “My partner has a big sack” and have no one start to giggle?

One that has always struck me as funny is “throw up on the bank” in its various iterations. Every experienced angler has had a fishing partner tell them to throw a lure up on or near the bank, but in a different context it would mean something wholly less desirable.

I was reminded of this a few weeks ago while researching a story about Bryan Kerchal for BassFan.com. In talking to Bryan’s father Ray, he told me something that I don’t believe I’d ever heard before, despite the fact that I’ve read lots of material about Bryan and his historical win. He told me that when they got back to the hotel that evening in 1994 after Bryan won the Classic, the newly crowned champ started to violently throw up. It was quickly apparent that it wasn’t just nerves. He’d been fishing all day with the flu. Spent the night hugging the porcelain god, not even well enough to enjoy his victory. Dad had to go out and cover the boat.

Maybe the story is well known and I just missed it, but even if that’s the case, it further lends to his legacy and also to that of the sport. We’ve heard endlessly about Willis Reed limping onto the court and Curt Schilling’s bloody sock, but in bass fishing you’re just kind of expected to suck it up and go out and buck the waves. In all of the pictures I’ve seen post-victory, Bryan looked incredibly non-pukey, so despite his relative inexperience, he seems to have played the game the right way.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 November 2014 09:34
 

Stuffing Chester Cheetah

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November 14, 2014

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Since I’ve entered my 40s, I’ve managed to amass a little bit more disposable income and I’ve also had the opportunity to take some incredible fishing trips. Combined, those two things have stoked a love of taxidermy. Right now, we only have three replicas on the wall, but if I had my way my house would look like Nemo’s family reunion.

Typically, the decision of which fish to memorialize is a pretty easy one. Get the biggest ones. There may be other factors, but in my line of work the most memorable catches are almost always the ones that hit some weight or length milestone. The three fish on our walls are my 12 pound largemouth, my biggest peacock bass and my wife’s biggest peacock.

Now that I’ve sampled the redfish magic, I desperately want a replica to remind me every day of how great those fish are. But which do I get? Of course, I’d want it to be a large one, but there are other factors to be considered beyond just size. The biggest ones we caught in Venice this past week were pale. On the final day we went downriver and caught some that were the deep red color that gives the species its name. Would you want a 45-incher that wasn’t particularly colorful, or a 43-incher that was more vibrant?

With reds, there’s another consideration: spots. Some of them only have a single spot, but others have whole constellations of markings. I’m not sure that they’re distinct like snowflakes, but I’d want with with multiple dots. I’m hoping that on the next trip the fish gods make it easy for me and order up a dark red monster with beautiful markings. Is that too much to ask?

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Last Updated on Friday, 14 November 2014 07:32
 

50 for 50

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November 13, 2014

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Since my friend Scott left the Old Dominion for the allegedly greener pastures of Dallas a few years ago, we've made a point of meeting up at least annually in some fishy location. There have been multiple journeys to Falcon and a trip to Okeechobee, but this year circumstances conspired to force us to think bigger. My canceled trip to the Amazon left me craving big, drag-stripping fish, and we were both free the weekend of his 50th birthday. Ultimately we decided that combination merited a trip to Venice, Louisiana for big bull reds.

I was fortunate enough to catch my personal-best largemouth -- a 12 pounder -- on my birthday in 2012, but Scott may have topped that feat with the 45 inch redfish he caught on his birthday and the 46-incher he landed the following day. Those were just a few of the big fish we caught over three days on the water. The cooler in our guide's boat was 40 inches edge to edge and we spent a lot of time with heads and tails hanging off the ends of it.

I'm no redfish expert, but from what I can tell a 46-incher is a pretty damn big one. The lodge had multiple pictures of the guides holding up fish marked as 45 or 46 inches, so I'm not even sure how many 50s come along in the course of a year. According to the formula Scott found online, a 46 with the girth that his had would typically weigh somewhere in the range of 38 pounds. He caught it on medium-light spinning tackle.

Kinda makes your birthday trip to Chuck E Cheese seem a little inadequate, doesn't it?

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Last Updated on Thursday, 13 November 2014 07:56
 

Keepers are from Mars, Bull Reds are from Venice

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November 12, 2014

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When my friend Scott and I arrived in Venice, Louisiana, last Friday, our host confronted us with what he thought was some bad news: “The keeper redfish and speckled trout have been a little tough,” he said.

“What about the big bull reds?” we asked.

“They’ve been much easier to catch,” he replied. “Is that a problem?”

No problem at all. In fact, it made an easy decision even easier. While lots of people go fishing to fill their freezers, the express purpose of this trip was to get our strings stretched. Even if the fishing for smaller fish had been better, absent the introduction of mind-altering drugs into our systems, we still would’ve wanted to chase the big’uns. I can get filets any day of the week, but fish that can rip drag are a rarity in my life.

A group that was departing as we arrived had come in on a jet owned by one of their members. They were anxious to get their fish cleaned. I’m guessing that if I could find that kind of scratch, legally or illegally, I could bring someone along to fish for fillets while I chased the monsters. Eating freshly-caught reds is great, but given the choice, I’ll take sport over groceries every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 November 2014 07:25
 

The Old Spinnercricket

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November 6, 2014

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I don’t know Rayovac champion Zack Birge, in fact, I’m not even 100 percent sure how to pronounce his last name. Nevertheless, I’m a fan. Why? Because he got to heft the big novelty check on the strength of his skills with a spinnerbait. And when the spinnerbait didn’t produce what he needed….he tied on a bigger spinnerbait.

That’s a rarity in major tournaments today. There simply aren’t many major events won exclusively on a blade. Sometimes someone will catch a few with it “then fill out my limit on a worm” or “look for a kicker with a jig” – but winning catches exclusively on a spinnerbait are a rare thing. The rise of the Chatterbait and the swim jig, as well as tournament-sized swimbaits, have had a role in that, I’m sure.

I still love to throw a blade and I guess I should be glad that fewer and fewer people are using them. Still, it’s nice to get some reinforcement once in a while that it still works as well coast to coast as it did 10, 20 or even 30 years ago.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 06 November 2014 08:05
 

Now with Wings!

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November 4, 2014

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Every few years we see not only trends in lure categories themselves, but subtrends within them. One year everyone’s adding short-shank treble hooks to every lure and the next year it’s all about dangling spinnerbait blades or chicken feathers.

The accoutrement of the year for the 2014-15 season seems to be wings. Or call them flappers, if you like. Or even clappers. Of course, metal hinged “arms” on hard baits are nothing new. The Heddon Crazy Crawler dates back to sometime in the middle ages, or at least before Guy Eaker was born.

Just about everyone has owned one (likely gifted by a kindhearted aunt who knew nothing about fishing), but as far as I know none of my friends ever caught anything on them. If they did, it’s the best kept secret in our peer group.

Obviously SOMEONE caught something on them, though, because their population is growing faster than the Tribbles. Years ago, I bought a Deps Kakuru, but now the Japanese have brought them to American tackle outlets. This year Jackall made a big introduction of its Pompadour (which features not only wings, but also a rear propeller) and today on the Tackle Warehouse site I found the Imakatsu Aventa Crawler. In the latter bait, I can’t decide whether to buy it in “Bone Love Fish” or “Zombie Carp.” 

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 November 2014 07:58
 
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