By Pete Robbins
I had to be in South Georgia Monday morning for a media event, so I elected to fly in on Sunday to ensure that I’d be one of the first to hit the water. I had three airports to choose from:
1) Tallahassee, Fla. – the closest to my final destination (90 minute drive), but the fewest flight options, and the most expensive;
2) Jacksonville, Fla. – second closest (2 hours 10 minutes), second most expensive; or
3) Atlanta, Ga. – least expensive, car rental substantially cheaper, but the longest drive (somewhere between 3 and 4 hours).
When I booked the flight a few weeks ago, I elected to split the difference and go through Jacksonville, which proved to be a great choice, because I landed at 12:30, picked up my rental chariot, stopped for lunch, and was still able to make it to the Elite Series weigh-in in Palatka with plenty of time to spare before the weigh-in started. Thus, I was there when Rick Clunn pulled up at the dock, and I was there when the scales closed and he hoisted the trophy.
I realize that Clunn last won with B.A.S.S. in 2002, but the last time I saw him win in person was 1990 at the James River, when he claimed his fourth Classic title. That brush with greatness was also incidental – I didn’t know much about fishing at the time, but I was home from college on summer break, read about the tournament in the newspaper (remember those?) and drove down to Richmond to check it out.
For me, it’s been 26 years in between witnessing Clunn achievements up close, but in that interim I’ve been to 12 more Classics (as a member of the media), as well as a bunch of Elite Series tournaments, Opens and TTBCs. I have seen all sorts of history being made, some of it on the water from just yards away, and for a fish geek like me, that’s extremely gratifying. I still consider myself a newcomer to the game, but clearly I’ve been around for a while because when I think of all the people I’ve fished with, talked to and gotten to know, the list is substantial.
Apparently, my love for the sport is pretty evident, because when I got to Palatka, multiple people – including my boss at JM, Steve Bowman, and fellow B.A.S.S. writer Steve Wright – asked “Did you fly here specifically for this?” I told them I hadn’t, but the fact that they thought it was possible or even likely demonstrates that my obsessiveness is noted and perhaps appreciated. [On the flip side, upon seeing me, super-camera-dude James Overstreet’s first words were “You got any Senkos for me?” So I guess I’m known for that, too.]
Of course, not every plane reservation is so fortuitous, and not every trip results in something so momentous as a Rick Clunn win, but for a guy like me who is not at every Elite Series event, I have to take my special moments however I can get them, whenever they pop up in my sights.