Trip Weldon's got one of the best seats in the house at the Classic: on stage with the anglers. His official title is B.A.S.S. Tournament Director, but the average person watching the Bassmaster Classic would be more likely to describe him as the man who weighs the fish.
As the weighmaster, just a part of his job with B.A.S.S., Weldon is on stage all three Classic competition days. He's the guy every angler looks to as they mount the stage steps, hope on their faces that the day's weight will be just a bit more than they had guessed. They hand their bag of fish to Weldon, who then places the fish in a basket and positions it squarely on the scale (which he calibrated before the first fish of the day even hit the table). The weight is relayed by computer to a screen in front of emcee Dave Mercer, and to the official scorekeeper on the sidelines.
Weighing so many fish often leaves his hands finned and sore, but he enjoys that part of his job anyway. A longtime tournament angler himself, he can relate to the anglers. "You see their highs and lows. You understand what the fish are doing, and what the anglers have been through out there trying to catch them," he said.
Fans won't hear Weldon say much on stage. He's way too busy to talk. He works quickly because he wants to get the fish safely into holding tanks, at this Classic provided by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. But he's certainly paying attention to how the competition is unfolding, especially on the final day.
"The most exhilarating time is when the last angler measures his fish, and you watch the scale settle the weight, and you know if he's the champion or one of the other anglers standing behind him is the champion," he said. "In one instant, you see the thrill of victory — and the agony of defeat."
Weldon is always quick to praise the tournament crew. They work behind the scenes, and the public rarely sees them. "We have experienced B.A.S.S. tournament managers and staff who have a hand in all of this," he said. "There's a large group of people who make this happen and I'm proud to be a part of that team."