When Jason Christie had 10 pounds of bass in his boat at 8:30 on Day 3 at Lake Dardanelle, he told his Marshal, "You must be good luck. I didn't get a bite until noon the last two days."
That's when Marshal Lance Roe told him that apparently he was a good luck charm. Roe had been with Mike McClelland on Day 3 at Table Rock Lake, when McClelland won.
"(Christie) turned around and looked at me, and said, 'No kidding?'" Roe recalled.
Nope. No kidding. Roe has experienced a phenomenal streak of Marshaling on the Bassmaster Elite Series circuit. Roe has worked two of the last three Elite Series events – first on Table Rock Lake (April 3-6), then on Lake Dardanelle (May 15-18) – and he was paired on Day 3 with the eventual winners.
Both McClelland and Christie caught their best bags of the tournaments with Roe in the boat. McClelland's bag of 17 pounds, 9 ounces, moved him from fourth to first on Day 3; Christie's five bass weighing 20-0 jumped him from 10th to fourth on Day 3.
"That's a rare opportunity, to spend a day with two guys that win the tournament," Roe said. "It has really meant a lot to me. I had goose bumps when Christie won it that Sunday."
These last two events weren't Roe's first rodeos: He began Marshaling in 2011, for one tournament a year near his home in the northwest Arkansas town of Prairie Grove. With two events this year located within a couple hours drive from the house, he signed up for both.
Though he hadn't spent a day with a tournament winner until this year, Roe has never been disappointed.
"The key thing is the learning experience," said the 43-year-old Roe. "I wish they'd had this when I was a young kid. That's why I encourage these young guys especially to enroll as a Marshal."
Even before this recent run of luck, Roe could rattle off a long string of learning experiences. He has Marshaled for David Walker, Russ Lane, Timmy Horton, James Niggemeyer and Kevin VanDam, just to name a few. He has learned to get the most out of those days with the pros.
"All these guys are different, just like everybody else in the world," Roe said. "You have to feel them out. The key is to let them initiate the conversation. There's not going to be much talk with any of them until they've got five in the boat."
Kevin VanDam was the exception, in Roe's experience.
"He surprised me with how much he talked," Roe said. "KVD was a great day. Boy, did I learn a lot."
Roe and VanDam do have something in common. Both grew up in the Upper Midwest. Roe is from Sheboygan, Wis.
"I lived six blocks from Lake Michigan," he said. "My dad started taking me to fishing piers when I was four or five years old."
While his dad lost interest in the sport, Roe's grew. He rigged a cart for his fishing gear that he could pull with a bicycle.
"Sometimes I'd fish for eight hours straight," he said.
In 1998 when Roe's wife, Brenda, got a job offer with Cargill Inc., in Springdale, they made the move to northwest Arkansas.
Roe is now fully invested in bass fishing – both at work and play. He is a business rep for Denali rods as well as several fishing lure manufacturers. He has fished as a co-angler on the FLW tour. When he didn't accomplish his goals during two seasons of FLW events, he decided he needed to go "back to school." The Elite Series Marshal program has been his school.
"As we're idling out to start the day, I always tell these guys that I don't care about their (fishing) spots, I just want to learn something," Roe said. "They're usually more than happy to teach you."
For instance, McClelland invited Roe to the front deck to show what he was seeing on his electronics and why he was fishing certain areas.
And Christie put on a clinic on how to swim a jig.
"I've seen a lot of guys swim a jig, but I'd never seen a guy work a jig like that," Roe said. "He kept it moving with an arm and wrist action. It was almost like walking the dog with a (Zara) Spook, but he kept the rod at a 45-degree angle. I bet he caught at least 21 fish that day."
And Roe witnessed the big one that Christie didn't catch, the 7-pounder that Christie tried to swing or, as he called it, "boat flop." Christie thought he had given the tournament away at that point, when he didn't realize how big the bass was until it was too late, and his line snapped with the fish in mid-air.
"I think I could win this tomorrow," Christie told Roe on Saturday. "I've got a lot of unfinished business."
Interestingly, with all these days spent on the water with the Elite Series pros, Roe has learned to reduce, rather than expand, the fishing tackle he carries in his boat.
"Christie had two rods on the deck all day long," Roe said. "I'm learning to downsize my bait selections to about three colors."
As an example, Roe mentioned seeing Casey Scanlon change a crankbait's color with a wide-tipped Sharpie pen.
"It was a chartreuse bait," Roe said. "He made four strokes with a Sharpie and it was solid black on top with a chartreuse belly. He made two casts with it and pow, he caught a 3-pounder."
Whether he's with a winner or an also-ran, Roe said he hasn't spent a day on the water without improving his own bass fishing skills.
"It's just amazing what you can learn," he said. "It's like watching a clinic."
And it's been especially amazing for Roe to be with two Elite Series winners in a row.