On the first day of practice for the 2001 Louisiana Bassmaster Top 150 at Toledo Bend, I fished with a pro sponsored by Evinrude. Three months earlier OMC, the parent company of Evinrude, had filed for bankruptcy, so I guess strictly speaking the nameless angler wasn’t “sponsored,” but he still had a big old ‘Rude strapped to the back of his boat.
OMC’s uncertain future meant that there was no service crew available at the event, nor were replacement parts likely to be available. As we launched the boat at the Jolly Roger Marina on the stump-filled upper end of the lake, the pro’s traveling partner (his bravery bolstered by a Mercury on his transom) told my partner not to take any unnecessary chances.
“If you break it, you’re done,” he said.
Nothing broke that day, largely because he took no chances.
The service crews get things done. They keep the pros floating and have saved tournaments, seasons, careers and perhaps lives more than once. At the same time, their presence also encourages the anglers to take risks.
If you know you can get a new lower unit bolted on that evening, you’re more likely to take some chances. If powerheads are a dime a dozen, then the rev limiter becomes just a recommendation, as does the low water pressure warning horn.
If you saw any of the amazing photo galleries from the recently-concluded Elite Series tournament on the Alabama River, then you know that risk-taking is where it’s at these days. I was absolutely amazed by the pictures and the photos. In some, it looked like the bass boats were sitting below a tsunami. In others, they were traversing water where you wouldn’t dare canoe, kayak, paddleboard or surf. Jared Miller and some big boulders may have invented a new Olympic biathlon event – half bass fishing, half pinball.
The photo galleries were awe-inspiring but at the same time they were a train wreck. It was the outdoors equivalent of Dennis Rodman in the early ‘90s, Britney Spears in 2007 (the shaved head era) or Mike Tyson any time in the past 30 years. You didn’t want to look away because it was almost certain that something memorable was about to happen.
Fortunately, nothing really memorable did happen.
No one was hurt. No boats were irrevocably damaged. No rules were broken.
If a pro wants to take his $70,000 floating rocket into hazardous territory, that’s his business. Contrary to popular opinion, most of them don’t get ’em for free, so if they think the risk is worth the potential reward, that’s their decision to make. Truth be told, even if they cracked it into a thousand pieces of semi-wrapped fiberglass, they’d probably still be able to recover the trolling motor, the electronics and a few other peripherals, so it’d likely be only a $50,000 loss – not including the hospital bills, any potential lawsuits, the environmental remediation fees and the reimbursement to the search and rescue crew.