Second chance for Schuff
For Craig Schuff of Watauga, Texas, last week's decision to join the 2011 Bassmaster Elite Series was a restart of a career interrupted.
Back in 1996, just after he competed in the Bassmaster Classic as a B.A.S.S. Federation Nation entrant, Schuff decided to turn pro. He had won the 1995 Federation Championship and owned two Federation divisional titles.
He was 35, and the promise of pro fishing beckoned. Like most anglers, Schuff still needed a job. He took a new job selling insurance, hoping it could turn into a flex-time position that would allow him to compete. It did not. "It was hit the road Monday morning and come home at midnight Friday," he said. "I didn't have time to think about fishing during the week. And under those conditions, it's hard to jump back into the truck Saturday morning to go fishing."
At one point, he quit the water altogether. "I didn't pick up a rod for three and a half years," he said. He eventually drifted back to competitive fishing, entering a Bassmaster Open here and a local event there. But as the 2010 season approached, he made a definitive decision: He would sign up for all three Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open events.
"I had had a really good year work-wise in 2009, so I had the money," he said. "That meant I wouldn't have anything on my mind but fishing when I was on the water. And I liked all the lakes the Opens were on." Competing in all three 2010 Central Opens meant he had three chances to earn enough points to qualify for the 2011 Elite Series and Bassmaster Classic.
He began the season with a win, then followed with a second-place finish. That 1-2 gave him a solid points lead. But in the third and final event, he stumbled. Two other anglers inched ahead of him in points, and he didn't get a 2011 Classic berth. Yet his third-place finish in the points standings was more than good enough for an Elite Series invitation. "And that," he said, "was my goal going into the Opens: to finish in the top seven and qualify for the Elites."
Not getting into the 2011 Classic didn't cool his desire to join the Elite Series. So, at age 49, he made a now-or-never decision and signed on. He's already decided that qualifying for the 2012 Classic will be his rookie-year goal. The first Elite Series tournament will be in mid-March, but Schuff will get started in January.
He's planning a long scouting trip to see at least four of the 2011 Elite Series fisheries; Toledo Bend is the only one he's laid eyes on. Meanwhile, he's working on a wrap for his Skeeter/Yamaha boat rig. Besides Skeeter, his major sponsors on the wrap will be Fun-N-Sun Boating Center, a dealership with three locations in the Fort Worth-Dallas area; and Airmasters, a Texas-based heating and air conditioning business. MotorGuide is another sponsor, he said. While he's on the Elite Series trail, he plans to leave his insurance business in the good hands of someone else and "try not to" get involved in day-to-day details. "I don't want to do anything but fish," he said.
Thompson to B.A.S.S.
Angie Thompson has joined B.A.S.S. as director of digital content development. "It's a humbling prospect to know I'll have a finger on the pulse of this incredible brand, one so many people love," she said. "I hope what I know about telling stories will be meaningful to users of Bassmaster.com and of social networks to which B.A.S.S. is connected."
Thompson has a deep and wide background in many TV disciplines, including writing, graphic design, production and programming development. She also created and hosted the ESPN2 show Cumberland Stories, which focused on people who live and work in the outdoors. She was the co-host of the long-running ESPN2 show ESPN Outdoors.
Thompson held two positions with Dallas-based production companies before she joined JM Associates of Little Rock, Ark., in 1992. Since then, she has tackled "every job you can have in television production," she said. JM Associates, a company created by Jerry McKinnis, now a new owner of B.A.S.S., was acquired about three years ago by Atlanta-based Career Sports Entertainment.
On board with CSE, Thompson turned her focus mainly toward programming development. "As we all know, digital is becoming more and more relevant every day," she said. "I'm excited to take what I know about content and apply it to a different platform.
The way I was raised in working for Jerry was to be a good storyteller, and you can tell good stories in so many different ways. Now I'm going to tell stories on a digital platform. The core values are the same." An Alabama native, like B.A.S.S. itself, Thompson is a graduate of Auburn University. Taught by her father how to fish, she still wets a line whenever she can. Besides fishing, she loves dogs and is training her retriever for therapy work in nursing homes.
Swindle swings through the Louisiana Delta
Gerald "G-man" Swindle of Warrior, Ala., was on the road this morning early, headed south to the Louisiana Delta, the fishery for the 2011 Bassmaster Classic. Classic rules allow scouting through Dec. 12. After that time, the water will be off-limits to the 50 competitors until the official practice days of Feb. 11-13 and Feb. 16.
The event will be Feb. 18-20 out of New Orleans. Swindle said he planned to be on the Delta by this afternoon and stay for three more days. "I'll ride for days; I'll just ride," said Swindle, a Bassmaster Elite Series pro who has competed in 10 Classics and scouted the fishery for each one. "I might fish all of four to five hours total, but mostly I'll be looking for where the grass is growing now, where it is dying back and might come up in the spawning season, which is when we'll be there. It's like being a palm reader, looking at the lake, trying to see the future."
He expects to find that Katrina has altered the fishery. Then again, any big storm tends to change the Delta, he said. "And now that they put the freshwater diversion in near Bayou Segnette, it (has) changed everything. It changes up even how you practice," he said.
"You don't have to run an hour to Venice or Bayou Black or Delacroix — runs that absolutely take a toll on your body." Still, he added, the decision to run distances or to milk nearby pockets will be key come competition time. Swindle has competed in all three Classic competitions that have been on the Louisiana Delta.
In the first, in July 1999, he finished 39th in a field of 45 anglers. The 2001 event was his best finish of his three Delta Classics: 5th of 45. He did almost as well in 2003, when he ended 11th of 61, the largest field in Classic history.
The 2011 competition will be Swindle's 11th Classic appearance. Of the 11, his best finish was third place in the 2005 event won by Kevin VanDam — the same pro who won the Delta Classic in which Swindle placed fifth. Does that mean there's a G-man/KVD rivalry that stems from those two Classics? It sure does. "There's that one guy, name of Kevin VanDam, who keeps getting in my way — ever heard of him?" Swindle joked. "We always kind of give each other the eye in a tournament," Swindle said. "I'll say, 'Hey, you on for a dollar?' I'll whisper in his ear when nobody's looking and say, "Hey, I'm fixin' to get some of you this week.' It's almost like playing head games with Tiger Woods.
Unfortunately, I think Kevin sometimes feeds off of it." Swindle has a sweet deal in New Orleans this week. As the result of a Facebook connection initiated by a New Orleans fan and firefighter, he's going to be put up in a downtown fire station, where they'll give him a bunk, feed him and share their exercise equipment. Swindle promised to report in after his scouting trip and stay at the firehouse. Check the next issue of B.A.S.S. Reporter's Notebook to read about Swindle's experiences.
Many anglers will get their chance this week to set off on a quest for a 2012 Bassmaster Classic berth. Registration kicks off today for the three Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open events of 2011.
The pro-level victor of each event will win a 2012 Classic entry. The season's top five pros will qualify for the 2012 Bassmaster Elite Series. This week's entries will be taken first from a priority group of anglers — B.A.S.S. Federation Nation members, B.A.S.S. Life members and subscribers to B.A.S.S. Insider — who want to sign on for all three Northern events. On Thursday (Dec. 9), registration for all three Northern Opens will open up for all B.A.S.S. members.
Save the date
Next Tuesday (Dec. 14) at 9 a.m. ET, registration will be opened up to all B.A.S.S. members who want to register for any available spots remaining in any single event of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens trail in the Northern, Central and Southern divisions. Anglers can sign on as pro anglers or as co-anglers (non-boaters). The registration phone number is 877-BASS-USA (877-227-7872). Get more information on the 2011 Opens.
"You see, we don't have to reach all 35 million bass anglers. We have a half-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." — Jerry McKinnis, a B.A.S.S. owner, in a recent blog