There's still time to back out

Jerry McKinnis

Hey, right off the bat let me thank everyone for all the comments regarding the blog about Forrest Wood and me. That was really fun to write.

At times I get to talking about things that happened to me back in the '50s and '60s that have fishing connections, and the people around my place of business are amazed. Someone is always talking about a book, but I think only my relatives and friends would be interested in a book and that would just total about 28 people, if I count cousins. Not only that, but if I wrote a book, someone would start researching and might find out I was lying.

Think I'll just stick to this blog.

Wow, what a whirlwind several days I've had since the B.A.S.S. transaction was completed. My goodness, now we're going to actually have to do what we said we were going to do. That being — make 35 million bass fisherman happier than they've ever been.

In all seriousness, that's what we intend to do. And although it will be hard, it shouldn't be as hard as you think. You see, we don't have to reach all 35 million bass anglers. We have 1/2 million members at B.A.S.S., and that's all we have to worry about. We take care of those members and make them the happiest bass anglers ever, and they'll touch the other 34 1/2 million. Sound silly? It is. But it's the truth.

Now, I'm going to completely switch gears. Trust me, this blog is meant to keep you up to date with what's going on with B.A.S.S., but today it will tell you a little bit about what a goof ball I am — one of your new leaders.

Here we go ...

I love fishing in bass tournaments. I competed in Ray Scott's first 10 or 12 events and then quit in order to make a living for the next 35 years. I started back this past 6 or 8 years with practically zero success, but I try as hard as anyone.

Please remember as you're reading this — I am the guy you have rallied around to take your organization, B.A.S.S., to new heights. You've bet the farm on me, your new leader.

Also remember that I'm 74, have had a heart attack, and have one knee that racquetball has wasted. So, now you know the score.

It's a couple of years ago, end of February on Lake Sam Rayburn in Texas. This lake can be brutal in February/March; and on this morning, the last day of practice before a pretty big event, brutal it was.

The wind has wiped out all the ramps on the south side of the lake which is all right because no one wants to practice on this last day in this kind of weather anyway.

That is, no one but me. I'm going out somewhere and trying something.

I know a little-used ramp way on the north side of the lake that the 20-mph wind can't quite get to. Took me 45 minutes to get to it, but there I was in a cove called Five Fingers standing looking at the ramp. It's 32 degrees, just beginning to get light and sleeting. Yes, I said sleeting. There's no one else at the ramp, of course; in fact, I don't think there's anyone else on the whole lake.

So, I ease my boat down the ramp. And folks, I'm pretty good at backing up the boat and launching — make very few mistakes. Except this time I back a little too far out; the boat comes off the trailer, drifts out about 30 feet from the ramp and hangs up in some brush.

I park my truck and trailer and walk back to the ramp and survey the situation; it's still sleeting.

There sits my boat, hung up in some brush in about 20 feet of water. No one's going to come by in another boat and see my situation, because it's still kind of dark and no one is on the lake.

No one is going to come by to launch at this ramp either because it's 32 degrees and sleeting. I've got to get that boat because I have to figure out how to catch some fish on Sam Rayburn that day and there's only one way to get it and that's to swim out and capture it.

But, if I do that, my clothes will be wet and cold all day. That will never work. So, you guessed it, I took them all off, including my skivvies and socks. There I stood buck naked at the Five Finger boat ramp on Sam Rayburn. Skies just starting to get light ... and did I mention it was sleeting? This is your leader, folks.

Now, under these circumstances, you can't go down to the water's edge, stick your toe in the water and then gradually slip on it. The water temperature is too cold. You'd back out. No, you have to hit the water full bore and never stop until you've reached the boat. That's what I did, and I pulled myself into the boat, started the engine and chugged back to the ramp.

I've thought a lot about that adventure since that time — how dangerous it was and honestly how stupid a move I'd made. But mostly I've thought about a "what if."

What if two old crappie fishermen had at that very moment pulled up to the Five Fingers ramp and walked out to see how bad the wind was. As they stood there in the sleet they saw a pile of clothes on the concrete ramp, a big fancy bass boat and sitting in the boat was a wet, naked man.

Then the one man might have said to the other, "You know that looks like Jerry McKinnis. I grew up watching him on television."

... Yep, that was one of the new leaders of B.A.S.S.

There's still time to back out and run people.

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