Packin'

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.

Dateline: Sophomore Year

I'm in a service center.

Been sitting here 35 minutes now.

I'm here for my 12,439-mile oil change. Sue, the service desk lady at Stephen's Automall, keeps typing in that number to the Toyota mainframe to no avail.

Seems the minivan folks have neglected to recommend a 12,439-mile service.

Especially since I've only had the minivan for 5 months. Five months on a 15,000-mile-a-year lease.

And my sophomore year driving season hasn't even began yet.

That's next week.

Sue knows my secret, being that she has the password to most of my secrets inside that Toyota mainframe. I'm 2,561 miles close to being done for the year of legal lease driving like.

So I tell her, "Sue, come on, I'm going to The Classic."

Sue: "The Classic what?"

db: "The Bassmaster Classic ... the Super Bowl of Bass."

She just looks at me over Toyota reading glasses, "Yeah. Where's that at?"

I'm within a 3-wood of ESPN in Bristol. Sue lives in Bristol. So if I say that somehow, this year we're holding the Bassmaster Classic in the pond outside building 3 at ESPN, she would know that's pretty much impossible since right now, most of the ESPN Pond bass are pretty much all frozed up.

So I mumble something ...

Sue: "Huh? Don ... "

She knows me ... "Shreveport, Louisiana ..."

Sue's fingers are a blur ... I count eight key strokes ... Uh oh, I'm about to get Service Desk Worrying About The Lease MAPQUESTED.

I'm dead, I know it, and in about 0.0000034 seconds, Sue is about to know it as well.

Sue: "Ah, Don..."

Now, here's the exact reason why I write about the outside, and not consumer issues ... when a service desk person who has the password to your life with your car, finds out that you are about to drive more than 3,000 miles in the next week or so, and you only have, roughly, 2,561 miles left to drive in say, the next 7 months or so, and they bring this point up in a service desk conversation, I don't advise saying this, which I did:

"No problem ... I'm just going to drive to Rocky Mount, N.C., in reverse ... should take care of some of those mileage "issues' right quick."

Don't want to say that. Ah, no. My bad.

Off to see the Classic

Dudes ... they let me back.

Yeah, I'm stunned, too.

And this is going to be a classic Classic. Fifty guys, one lady. First time ever a woman will compete against the men, head-to-head, bass-to-bass, the Classic has gone co-ed.

The world seems to care about this, the fish do not. Me either.

If you are great at what you do, and what you do is catch big, big fish, you deserve to be there ... gender stays on the dock, on the lake, skill is all that matters.

I once asked a pro-fishing guy, "So what if we had a rule that all you could catch is male bass fish for the fish to count?"

Ah, don't want to ask that again. No way. My bad.

But they let me come back in spite of myself. You gotta love folks like that, sort of Bass-ochists.

I've made it to the "been here, done that," career ladder. Believe it or not, I'm now fish experienced.

And I love this stuff ... most of it.

Not so much the morning launches, which take place dangerously close to happening the day before.

If you have to wear a flashlight strapped to your forehead, and you're not a mile down in a mine, you shouldn't be doing what it is you're doing, which is getting tackle ready to catch fish, which a respected biologist kid I know in middle school told me are not even awake at first safe light.

Not so much rain either. I've watched these guys fish with lightning so close I got a tan, "They tell me that they can hear their rods singing during the storm," which if they listened real close would actually be me screaming during the storm.

Not so much the 72-mph boat rides to catch bass fish that Google says has a top fish burst speed of 20 mph ... going downriver in a current away from some kind of crankbait.

But so much the men and women of this tour.

No tainted records here, this is a non-asterisk sport. Athletes you can take your kids to watch, and not worry about having the bad athlete talk later.

The only performance enhancement I've ever seen, or actually, smelled, is whatever that stink is they somehow manage to put on Berkley Gulp. Trust me, don't ever let anyone talk you into sticking your nose in, "it's just a bag of plastic worms, how bad could that be."

Bad. Real bad. End of days of nose hair bad.

Then there's the passion of these athletes in what is becoming damn near a pay for play sport. Every professional athlete says they love what they do, and "I'd do it for free man."

Yeah, right.

What if the "game check," was made out to the league, and not the player, what if the stadium tunnel had a toll gate to the field, no bucks, no bling, what if fast food is what you ate, not what you got paid to hawk on TV.

If you don't know this you need to know it: every professional athlete you watch on TV in all the major sports goes home with a paycheck at the end of the game.

Win or lose.

Not these men or women. In their tournaments only half the field will get a check. For the rest, it cost them money to play.

That right there is the exact definition of Love of the Sport.

My sophomore season

This year I plan on being at as many of the Elite, Women's and Opens as physically possible, what with having to drive in reverse and all.

I'm going to cover my friend, Bass legend and fellow custard ice cream eater Ken Cook and his wife Tammy on this, their final year on the Bass Pro tour. I was there last year at a restaurant table when the plans where made, I'll be there this year on the dock when Ken ties up for the final time.

The water will not be the same without Ken on it.

I'll be there with Elite Virgin Mark Burgess when he takes to the tour for the first time. Whatever tour road you've taken to get here, buckle up buddy, and welcome to the Elites. This ain't your local fishing club event any more.

I'll be at a pond near you. Going to be bringing bass downtown ... midtown, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens and Da Bronx. If you have been thinking this is just a sport south of the Mason/Dixon Line, that will change when you see the best of the best, an Elite angler pull a bass out of Central Park Lake.

And I'll also be with Javier.

Javier, a 12-year-old boy in the care of the state of Connecticut for half his life, a child looking to be adopted, a city child with an improbable love of fishing.

I'll be with Javi at his first CT Bass Federation Nation Youth Tournament, where he will meet his extended family of bass anglers for the first time.

And a bunch more stuff, soon as Sue lets my car out of the service department and I take back that crack about driving backwards to North Carolina.

— db

Don Barone is a member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association. Other stories of his can be found on Amazon.com. For comments or story ideas, you can reach db at www.donbaroneoutdoors.com

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