Bird leaves the Classic “Shoot” ready to ride

Fishing his first Bassmaster Classic in Fort Worth, Texas hits a reminiscent chord with Cody Bird. Hailing from Granbury, about 40 miles to the southwest, he’s made a few memories in Cowtown, some of which have helped frame his mindset for the biggest tournament of his fishing career.

“I won the bull riding at Billy Bob’s Bar (about 20 minutes from Dickies Arena) two to three times and I’ve competed in several rodeos in Fort Worth,” Bird said. “That was years ago. I’m 58 — I have better sense now.”

Long before the responsibilities of family life redirected his competitive drive from bull backs to bass boats, Bird competed in the American Junior Rodeo Association and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association for about 13 years.

True, he’s has put behind him that full-throttle lifestyle with painful memories of broken bones, a busted chin and a hole in his lip — all for the thrill of hearing that 8-second buzzer. However, Bird believes his bull-riding background directly correlates to the challenge of Bassmaster Classic competition.

“The thing about bull riding — when you sit down in the shoot on one, all that scared business is over with and you’d better be ready to try and ride him,” Bird said with the steely glint of a man who’s felt the lethal power of a ranked bull. “You’re already there, so you’d better give it everything you’ve got.”

Comparing rodeo competition to professional fishing, Bird said this: “Everything about bull riding is mental, believe me. It’s the same way in fishing; if you don’t have it upstairs when you take off, you’re not going to catch them.”

On a personal note, Bird said he’s found his bass tournament family warmly familiar.

“Bull riders remind me so much of these tournament guys; the camaraderie. We all knew everybody and liked one another,” he said. “We’d all travel together and show up at the same places. So that’s the comparison I have with rodeos and tournaments.”

Kinship is cool, but make no mistake, Cody Bird came out of his Classic shoot ready to ride. He placed 15th on Day 1 with 15-8 and he’ll surely be fishing for the buzzer today.