Day 2. Jason Williamson. I had heard and read that Jason was a fairly affable guy. I make a very conscious effort as a marshal to let the pro lead any conversations, because I want to have as little impact as possible on the outcome of his day. I respect the fact that these guys are trying to make a living here and I know from experience how a stranger in the back of your boat can be surprisingly distracting. Everyone's different. If the pro wants to chat, I'm glad to participate, but I try to let him set the tone. In Jason's case, I believe I can literally count the number of words spoken over our 8 hours together, including the first hour-and-a-half spent sitting in the cab of his truck waiting out the weather that delayed day two's launch. He wasn't unpleasant or mean or unprofessional but very quiet and stoic. So, unfortunately, I don't have a lot of insight into his personality or philosophies. He was apparently super focused on the job at hand.
Once we got on the water, it was interesting to watch his approach. He is a masterful flipper, putting the bait quietly into impossibly small spots.
Perhaps the highlight of that day came about an hour from weigh-in. Jason had been flipping flooded trees and brush most of the day. We had encountered several other competitors following a very similar approach, including eventual winner Tommy Biffle. There was a boat ahead of us and a boat behind us on this shore. I looked out across the channel and spotted four other boats doing the same thing along that shore. Then I noticed a boat that was a full two to three casts away from the tree line. And more than that, he was fishing with his back to the shore! Then I recognized the boat as Aaron Marten's. That is so cool! I smiled to myself. How awesome must it be to know how to catch the fish that no one else seems to be able to catch? (I rode with Aaron last year and was completely blown away! This guy is amazing! You can check out the details of that day here blog.fishingforward.com/2012/07/11/riding-along-with-the-bassmaster-elites-2.aspx Jason caught a better bag today than he had on day one, and finished in 74th place.
At the end of day two's weigh-in, my brother and I gathered with the other Marshals in hopes of getting paired up with one of the remaining top 50 anglers for day three. I say hope because we were both on the waiting list. As luck would have it, only 50-ish Marshals showed up for the pairings. Our chances looked good. My brother was paired first–John Crews, who ultimately finished the tourney in third.
"Good draw!" I told him. "That'll be a good day!"
A few minutes later, Marshal Director, John Stewart called out, "Boat 25. Kevin VanDam and…" The remaining Marshals all held their breath. "Joe Blow (I can't remember his name)" The crowd was silent. "Joe Blow? Going once. Going twice. Alright, next name.
Just then my brother leaned over and told me confidently, "It's you, dude."
John Stewart looked at his list and called, "How about, Kurt Mazurek?"
'Right here!" I responded enthusiastically.
"Are you sure you can go tomorrow?" John kidded.
"One-hundred percent." I assured him.
"You owe Joe Blow a big thanks," he joked.
Everyone who knows me is well aware that VanDam has been my favorite pro fisherman for many years. This was going to be awesome!
Back at the hotel room that night, I stood in front of the sink looking into the mirror. Craig sat watching a classic Seinfeld rerun on TV. Suddenly, he called out with disgust from the other room, "Wait a second! Are you shaving?!"
"Yeah," I answered as innocently as possible.
"Are you shaving because you're riding with KVD tomorrow?"
I paused, realizing I'd been caught. "Well, I don't want him to think I'm a bum," I tried weakly to defend myself then we both burst into laughter.