2011 Elite Series - Evan Williams Bourbon All-Star Championship
Alabama River - Montgomery, AL, Jul 29 - 31, 2011

The chase, or the catch?

Don Barone
Ike goes against Off DeFoe in the head-to-head format.

About the author

Don Barone

Don Barone

db has been in the reporting biz for over 30 years, won some Emmys and other awards, but is proudest of his four-decade marriage, his two kids and the fact he founded Tackle The Storm Foundation to help children.

"Hey Now, where are you going … "

Dateline:  Treasure Hunting

I'm a thought chaser.

Words whisper in my head.  Puffs of stories bounce around up there.

I understand the act of fishing because I live in a stream of words.

I search for the whirlpools in my mind. 

Whirlpools of words, images, sounds, I see them all churning around.

And to this whirlpool I pour new words, lyrics.  And to this whirlpool I add more spin with notes, beat, rhythm, music.

Then, whatever it is that makes me, me, takes over, and I just sort of anchor near the whirlpool, and watch, watch the whirlpool take shape.

I see every story I ever write before one word goes on paper.  By the time I'm typing I have already seen the beginning, the middle, the end of what it is you are about to read.

As a thought chaser, I look for those whirlpools within my mind.

But know this, to me, the treasure, is not the story, to me, the treasure, is the whirlpool.

I get jacked finding the school of words swirling about.

Fundamentally, everything I do begins with the word.

Not the story.

I do what I do, for The Chase … the words … not so much The Catch … the story.

Which is why I understand those who fish, even though I do not.

All season long I have asked my Elite angler friends of mine one very simple, very complicated question.  This, "What do you enjoy more, finding the fish, or catching the fish."

And to a man, this came the answer.

"Finding."

" … where are you going to my friend … "

I am wired for the chase, as I talk to you, the whirlpool is building, you may think this is strange, but I can feel it.  I can see your story as you are telling me your story.

But no whirlpool, no story.

No chase, no catch.

Every story I do, EVERY story begins this way.  To me, it is the fundamental of all story-tellin'.  Finding that whirlpool of words that all stories are built upon.  That all stories grow from.

Genius is in the whirlpool.  Over the years I have been blessed to have covered genius. 

And I'm blessed still in that I continue to cover genius, out here on the Bassmaster Elite trail.

Before you scoff at that, understand MY definition of genius: To me, a genius is someone who's river in their mind consists of nothing BUT whirlpools.

And trust me, there is genius in sports.

NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver James Lofton once told me that in the middle of a game, with everything going on in the stadium, going on around him on the field, that with all that, he could HEAR the football coming through the air to him.

Genius.

NFL Hall of Fame Quarterback Jim Kelly told me in a locker room once that he saw the touchdown pass happen, before he said hike.

Genius.

An MLB player once told me that at bat not only can he see the stitches on the baseball coming his way, but that sometimes, he saw the words on the ball.

Genius.

And out here on the Elite trail more than once, from several different anglers I have heard this, "db sometimes I can see the fish under the water, but I'm standing on the deck of my boat."

And that folks, in my book … is genius.

To be honest, I'm not real sure what this Elite All-Star thing is all about, I sort of like the format, the head-to-head kind of thing, the bracketology of the thing, the last man standing bit of it, so I think overall, it's kind of cool, not live-and-die kind of cool, but cool nonetheless.

But cool does not necessarily start any whirlpools a whirling if you know what I mean.

Then it dawned on me as I was standing at Media Day drinking the diet forbidden sweet tea … genius.

I wouldn't be hard-pressed to say for the record that sitting before me, were eight geniuses of this sport.

That's what best of the best means.

So, sweet tea in hand I walk up to one of them, Ott Defoe, a friend I know has never fished here before, and I ask him two questions:

"Dude, what do you like doing more, finding the fish, or catching the fish?"

Ott takes a bite of some diet forbidden BBQ and says to me (with a little bit of BBQ sauce on his chin), "Finding."

"Cool dude … now tell me this … you have never fished here before … so how can you possibly find fish at a place you have never been at before."

And with that Ott put down the fork, wiped his chin, and started talking.

Words.

Words spilling out.

I had just found Ott's whirlpool.

" … said I'm going out to find … "

"db … finding the fish is putting the puzzle together, the first bite lets you know you are going in the right direction, the second bite tells you this could be the real deal."

I know the look in Ott's eyes, as we sit at Media Day, at a small table with BBQ between us … Ott Defoe … is fishing.

"A bass is a bass is a bass, db.  To find it you have to go back to your fundamentals, they need food, they need cover … find those and you will find them."

In my head I can feel the first drop of what will become the whirlpool of words … for both Ott and myself … The Chase is on.

"I have never been on this body of water … about 8o miles of water, the first day I ran most of it, by noon that day though I knew where I was going to fish and what it was I was going to do."

I get that, for me, that is when I have found the song, and the lyrics begin to play.

"I always rely on my fundamentals, I always try to key in on the strongest current as possible, then I look for where that current hits something … a point sticking out … a big rock … a bend.  I always fish the outside of a bend, never inside."

Me too.  I can see the words being drawn into the whirlpool.

"If you stick to the basics … and they are the basics because they work, I try and not get too complicated, try not to outthink myself. If you know the basics and have confidence in yourself, it doesn't matter where we go to fish or what we do there, you just have to fish your way to find your fish."

I chase thoughts.

Ott chases fish.

But it was what he said next that told me, we both are here, to chase the chase.

"I say to myself, please God, just let me catch my first fish, I have to catch that first fish before I can catch my second fish … it all begins and ends with the first fish."

Simple, but profound.

Every story begins with one word.

Every tournament win begins with one fish.

Magic to me, is the chase.

Magic to me, is the first drop in the whirlpool.

Magic to me, are the whirlpools in your mind.

To understand these Elites, look to your own whirlpool.

To not understand these Elites, is to only focus on the catch.

These are men of the chase.

It is in that chase where I find the genius of this sport.

And the genius of those who do it, these eight Elites who can see the fish under their boats while standing on the deck.

Who see the Catch Whirlpool with BBQ on their chin.

And for you, I wish you nothing but The Chase.

For in The Chase, there is life.

For in The Chase, will be your whirlpool.

And within that whirlpool, will be your genius.

Chase it.

" … the pastures of plenty
I believe they're out there somewhere … "

Pastures of Plenty

Bruce Hornsby

-db

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