2011 Elite Series - Sunshine Showdown Harris Chain of Lakes - Tavares, FL, Mar 10 - 13, 2011

Off to a good start

Bassmaster Elite Series pro Charlie Hartley

No, I'm not talking about my finish on the Harris Chain. I'm talking about our first Elite Series win going to Shaw Grigsby, one of the nicest guys around.

After his win, I couldn't help but think about the old days, back when we had co-anglers in the boat. Most of us enjoyed most of them, but there was a hidden secret in the program. We all knew what it was — we didn't want to share our fish.

And why would we? After all, we were fishing for a lot of money. Weighing bass was how we earned our living. Sharing weight is not what we're about.

Somehow, for some reason, Shaw saw things differently. Day after day, tournament after tournament, and season after season, his co-anglers would walk across the stage and, almost without exception, sing his praises. The co-anglers considered him to be a lucky draw, the kind of thing they crossed their fingers for just before the announcements were made.

Often they would tell stories about him helping them catch fish. It was almost routine — especially in bed-fishing events — for Shaw to get his weight and then go help his co-angler get his or her weight. He put on one-man seminars before they were popular, before the arrival of the Marshals.

His faith is something noteworthy, too. It doesn't take long for anyone who's around him to realize he's a Christian man. But not because he talks about it all the time or because he quotes the bible at every opportunity. Rather, it's because he lives a good and clean and decent life. He walks the walk. He leads by example.

So, that's why I say we're off to a good start this year. We had a fine man win our first tournament. No one on the tour can complain about that. It's good for every one of us as well as the sport.

That was last week, though. This week it's about me finding some fish for Thursday. If I don't, there'll be no one to blame but me. The St. Johns River has something for everyone. If you can't find a way to catch bass here, there's no hope. It's your own fault.

We have current and tidal movement, so there's plenty of river stuff for the guys who like that kind of fishing. And, there are several lakes — B.A.S.S. is even letting us fish Rodman Reservoir this year — if that's your thing. There's grass everywhere as well as open water, channels, cypress trees and bedding bass. You can flip, pitch, drag, twitch and crank to your heart's content.

Overall, it should be an interesting four days. Most of us will be fishing to our strengths. That usually makes for an exciting event. Some of the guys are even whispering about 30-pound bags, although few will go on the record predicting such a thing.

Stay tuned.

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