As I write this, it’s 7:30 a.m. Sunday, May 18, the final day of what has been an incredible Elite Series event on Lake Dardanelle in Arkansas.
I live a short hour away from Dardanelle in Little Rock, but I don’t intend to go there until the weigh-in which will start at 3:15 p.m.
There will be tens of thousands of bass fishing fans on Bassmaster.com all day following BASSTrakk, the Live Blog, BassCams, doing everything possible to keep up with this rodeo. I will not. I don’t want to know anything until it starts unfolding. I want to be totally clueless as to who is going to win this affair.
This has been a very unusual week, with all kinds of thoughts going through my mind. I want to tell you about them, but it will be hard because they have been all over the place. When I write them, they may not make sense – might just sound like a bunch of random stories. For me, in some way, they’re all tied together and just all may bump into each other at 3 p.m.
The most important thing I have to say is how proud I am to be a part of this B.A.S.S. family. It is unique and, at times, I wish the whole world knew about it. Other times, I’m glad the whole world doesn’t know about it and we have it all to ourselves.
My story starts in 1997 in the parking lot of a Walmart in Jackson, Miss. It’s the final day of a bass tournament, an FLW event at Ross Barnett Reservoir. I’m standing in the crowd watching the weigh-in and this beautiful girl, and I do mean beautiful, walks up to me and says, “I’m Melissa Barlow and I’m here with Rick Clunn. Rick told me I should come meet you because you are an important part of bass fishing.”
I found that to be a strange moment because I was just the television producer working with ESPN to cover FLW events. Didn’t think I would be considered important.
At that time, Rick Clunn and I were good friends who had a lot of respect for each other, but we weren’t close enough to “hang out.” Six months later, Melissa and Rick would marry, eventually move to southern Missouri, about an hour from my home in northern Arkansas, and raise two incredible young boys. We do “hang out” now.
In the past 17 years, I think it’s safe to say that no one has helped shape my path more than Melissa and Rick, and that’s all I have to say about that.