Cooler Heads Prevail

At the 2005 Bassmaster Classic in Pittsburgh, the suits at ESPN decided that more media coverage is always better media coverage, so they attempted to shove two writers in certain competitors’ boats on a single day. Aaron Martens, who is known to be pretty obsessive about the weight of his boat, flipped out. Not only would his ride be slower, but it would be more cramped, too. He appealed to Rick Clunn for advice.

You’ve got to stand up for yourself, Clunn advised, because “otherwise it’s going to cost you 30 or 40 casts over the course of the day.”

Ultimately, Martens straightened the matter out and was saddled with only a single media observer that day. He finished second to Kevin VanDam by a mere 6 ounces, so ultimately his number of spectators didn’t make a difference, but it’s easy to see how critical each cast and each bite could be on the stingy Three Rivers.

Like Martens, many of the other Elite Series pros are fanatical about boat weight, boat organization and overall efficiency. Each year, it seems, we read articles about how they rig them on their own, lighten the load and work all sorts of magic to maximize how they run. I may have even written a few such articles myself. Whether it’s lightweight lithium batteries, foam on the inside of livewell lids to minimize noise or hand-tuned props for additional speed, everyone seems to be concerned about getting in those extra 30 or 40 casts. That’s why I’m surprised every time I turn on a tournament recap on television and see a big old cooler smack dab in the middle of the floor.

I know that these pricey high tech coolers – from brands like Yeti, Orca and K2 – are not only highly functional, but also serve as something of a “lifestyle” purchase. There’s big bucks in them for the companies that sell them, because unlike Hula Grubs and Alabama Rigs, they appeal to people who may never make the first cast (let alone the 30th or 40th). I also know that they’re not particularly heavy, even when loaded with ice, so it’s not like you’re losing miles per hour by putting them there, and it goes without saying that you have to drink something over the course of a long day on the pond. Nevertheless, even though it has become increasingly common, it shocks me each time I see it – sort of a sponsorship Groundhog’s Day.

As far as I can tell, there could be three reasons for this frozen food phenomenon: (a) efficiency doesn’t matter as much as we think it does; (b) the placement of the cooler on the floor doesn’t really hinder efficiency; or (c) finances matter more than floor plans. I’m not passing judgment, just wondering how those decisions get made.