Most of the B.A.S.S. crew are full-out nose to the grindstone during the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Toyota, so a good laugh is usually welcome.
The 2022 Hartwell Classic produced two of the most hilarious moments this scribe can recall. Both involved VIPs getting ran off, and they occurred within hours of one another on Championship Sunday.
First, at the Bassmaster LIVE set in the Outdoors Expo, Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris walked into the cordoned off area to say hello to Mark Zona. He didn’t make it 10 steps inside the ropes before he was quickly shooed away by stage manager Laurie Swan, who had no idea who he was. Zona, Ronnie Moore and I watched in horror, before hilarity took over. Forever burned in my mind will be the way Morris did a hop-skip turnaround jump. Very nimble.
To top it off, after Morris appeared on a LIVE segment, he was asked to pose with Swan, and he volunteered putting his arms behind his back like she was arresting him. Very cool, very funny. And this penitent gesture came from the biggest name in the outdoors.
Just hours later in the arena as the Super Six began, B.A.S.S. photographers James Overstreet and Seigo Saito were in position to take more award-winning shots. In most years past, photographers have been on a raised platform with an open sightline to the stage.
In 2022, JO and Seigo were side-by-side in floor seats, positioned in the front row behind a barricade. The truck and boat lane divided them from the raised stage and splashwell seats, but their line of sight was dead-on center. Yet if somebody were to walk past the barricades and stand in front of the stage, they’d have their head in every shot, especially a taller guy.
Enter B.A.S.S. CEO Chase Anderson. As the Super Six started, he moved in front of the stage, with head and some shoulders infringing on the photogs.
“I mean this was right before the juice started to go down,” Overstreet said. “Chase creeps up there. I’m kind of freaking out. Seigo is looking at me, like, ‘What’s he doing?’ You want that whole scene without any distractions. He can fill your subject pretty bad. He had to go. He had to go for the company.
“I told Seigo, ‘Tell him.’ Seigo said, ‘You tell him.’ We’re laughing, going back and forth. Some other media people know what’s going on and are laughing too.”
It just so happened that the Daily Limit had also slipped around the barricade and was standing pretty close to Anderson, but I was trying to blend in with those in the splashwell.
Overstreet then told Seigo he would handle it. In the din of the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, I hear JO bellow my name. “Soooooch!” I turn and see him and Seigo pointing at our company’s owner and waving to get him out of their way.
“Tell Chase to get out of the way,” JO yelled, later telling me, “Honestly, I didn’t think you would do it.”
I knew exactly what was going on. So I walked the three steps over to Chase, tapped him and pointed back toward JO and Seigo and said, “They need you to move.” Chase turned toward them as if to ask, “Who?”
You know that Far Side cartoon where there’s two bears looking into a rifle scope’s crosshairs? And the one bear is sheepishly pointing at the other? Well, that’s what JO and Seigo looked like, but both were pointing at one another.
Seeing the super apologetic reaction on Chase’s face, both then flashed Cheshire Cat grins as he walked over to give them what for and how come. Let’s let JO narrate the rest.
“Chase didn’t actually apologize, but he had the perfect response that we all hooted over. Chase is restrained, keeps things pretty tucked, professional and all,” Overstreet said. “He comes to me first and says, ‘Did you tell me to move?’ ‘No, it was Seigo.’ Then he goes to Seigo, ‘Did you tell me to move?’ ‘No it was JO.’ That’s why we’re laughing so hard. And Chase laughed.”
“He went over to mess with us. ‘How dare you tell the powers to be, the mightiest man in B.A.S.S. to get out of the way. You tell me to move?’ And it was in jest. We all had a great laugh about it. Seigo was belly laughing.”
“Everybody was in on what was happening. Everybody totally had a good laugh about that whole process. Everybody knew what was up. I think Chase knows I don’t mind messing with somebody a little bit.”
“It was one of my favorite moments of the Classic ever, man. It really was. The timing of it was just kind of perfect. It was a cool moment with the owner of B.A.S.S. and Seigo and I. It’s something we’ll always remember.”
And always laugh about.