We’ve decided to go ahead and award the 2018 Toyota Camera Boat Driver of the Year champion a little early. The TCBDY award is for the guys who spend three or four days ferrying Bassmaster photographers and writers around Elite Series tournaments in search of great photos and stories.
The job comes with a fair share of verbal abuse dished out by the curmudgeons who make up our talented team. Points are awarded for driving skills, ability to insert humor into the occasional unpleasant situation, and the quality of food brought along for passengers.
Jeff Southards of Murphy, N.C., has topped the field in the 2018 TCBDY race. He has been the camera boat driver for Thomas Allen (in the photo that’s Southards on the left and Allen on the right) and myself this week. His boat driving skills have been top notch, his humor superb, but honestly the food has taken him over the top. So perhaps we should give the award to his wife Stacey. She made us delicious sandwiches every day, including sloppy joes, smoked turkey, and barbecued pork sandwiches. He had points deducted for hitting a rogue wave, but the Ding Dongs offered with lunch more than wiped that out. The prize package includes a Bassmaster 50th anniversary pin, one free blog post (you are reading it now), a ride in my Toyota Tundra, and a promise of friendship for life.
Here’s more from Southards:
Why did you sign up to drive for us? “I love bass fishing.”
How many tournaments do you fish a year? “How many weekends are there?”
What do you do for a living? “Commercial refrigeration. Me and my business partner own Amos Refrigeration. We have 110 employees.”
Do you have children? “Four. Amy, Axel, Nolan and Makayla.”
What have you learned from the pros this week? “That they’ve fished all my spots. I do want to fish with more determination like they do.”
Has Justin Lucas missed any good spots? “Armstrong Cove.”
On a scale of 1 to 10, how much of a jerk has Thomas Allen been this week? “He’s a 10 (unusually good behavior).”
On a scale of 1 to 10, how much does Thomas deserve a raise? “9.5.”
What kept you from giving him a 10? “He hasn’t told me he’s taking me to Iowa for a deer hunt yet.”