"I find out what the world needs, then I proceed to invent."
"... have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become."
"If you are going to think, you might as well think big."
The Southern Open, on the dock
On a quiet street in Los Altos, Calif., sits a shrine for doing it your own way.
If you cruise the street at the posted speed limit, you may never see it. There is no sign announcing it.
It's a one-story stucco house with a big tree on one side and a two-story house next door. Light in color with offsetting shutters, it fits right into the neighborhood. A well-kept, unassuming family home.
Except for one thing.
The attached garage.
That's the shrine.
I am connected to that garage. As are millions of other people around the world.
If not for what happened in that garage I'm not sure I could do what I do.
It probably effects you, too.
If you are ever in California, take a side trip down that street, turn the iPod down and give a nod to inventors everywhere.
Give a nod especially to the garage. Because inside, on a large wooden workbench dragged in by one of their fathers, two guys were thinking, and thinking big.
Like Edison, they saw a need they thought the world needed, even if the world didn't know it needed it then.
So they followed their passion.
Inside that attached garage, on an old wooden bench, night and day Stephen Wozniak and Steve Jobs thought big.
And when they rolled the garage door up, Apple came out.
Right there at 2066 Crist Drive.
Tinkerers at the Dock
It's exactly 5:47 a.m. and I'm mostly asleep.
Except I'm standing on the dock for the launch of the Southern Open on Wheeler Lake.
As our family friend in Virginia, Dorothy, says, "Sugar (pronounced Sugah), you just a lost dog in high weeds."
Frankly, I never had any idea what that meant. Until now.
In front of me bob 170 bass boats doing a version of your father's idea of bumper boats at the launch ramp.
I'm staying on the dock.
5:48 a.m.: Behind me across the lake between two trees and some barge thing someone just turned on a flashlight.
"Ah, db, that's the sunrise," says Vicky/Valerie (the Bassmaster lady who throws things at the boats that have little numbers on them that I can't see without my reading glasses and who is named one of those two names but I always forget and she refuses pretty much now to tell me which one is her). "That's the sun."
Who knew the sun started out as an LED.
Then the water erupts — waves and motors of all sizes coming to life, unlike me. Suddenly this BASS guy sitting in a chair, who I also thought was mostly asleep, starts shouting, "You're boat No. 1. Check in 2:15."
And he does this 174 times.
I'm awake, and out of the tall weeds, around boat 27.
Somewhere around boat 74 I'm thinking I must have just taken a power nap and been dreaming because as I turn to watch the boats go past I see one has a basketball stuck between the motor and whatever it is they call the end of the boat.
"Ah Lee ... ah ... by any chance did you ... ah ... happen to see a BASKETBALL stuck in that boat that just took off?"
My head is down as I may have just asked the Skeeter boat wiz about something I may have seen in a dream, it being the NBA playoffs and all.
I look up and see that Lee and "Happy," the Nitro wiz mechanic, are also watching the basketball stuck boat chug out the harbor. I'm back in the high weeds again.
Lee is still watching the basketball-stuck boat when he says, "Must be something the guy invented to add buoyancy to the back of the boat."
And I'm impressed, first that a boat-fixing wiz also calls the back of the boat "the back of the boat," and second, that there's tinkering going on at these docks.
As I was leaving I came across a guy with fresh Starbucks and a two-day-old shave who asked me if I "saw that ol' boy with the basketball."
Between sips and smokes he wondered what it was about, and if it would make a difference.
And this, thanks again to Dorothy, is the last thing I said to him: "Don't know, but if frogs had wings they wouldn't bump their butt when they hopped."
He was still standing there on the dock looking at me as I drove off in the Hula Girl minivan.
I'm under the tent where they have the big tubs of water they keep the bass in until the anglers go on stage. Then the bass get a boat ride back from whence they came.
In front of me sits Retired Army 1st Sgt. Jeff Barrentine of Hartselle, Ala.
Jeff spent two tours of duty in Iraq, deployed first in Operation Desert Storm, and again in Operation Iraqi Freedom. After 25 years in the Army he retired out of the 465th Quartermaster Battalion.
"I've been fishing all my life," he says. "In fact I took my rod and reel with me to Iraq and whenever I had the time I would just cast over and over again into craters or mud holes."
That's a serious fishing loving dude right there.
Jeff is just like the guys in the Palo Alto garage. On his lap sits his invention, and as far as I can tell, that prototype thing sitting there has cost him about $32.98 to make.
"I came up with the idea in a deer stand," he says.
Forgot to ask if he had a garage.
"It's a Dynamic Fishing System, Dial-a-Pattern."
I'm in high weeds again, real high weeds. I'm going to try and explain this thing as best I can, but if I'm wrong I don't think you can sue me because I'm pretty sure no one other than Jeff really knows what the thing is either.
Jeff: "It's used to establish a pattern — structures, temperature, time of year, water conditions. And then that tells you what kind of lure to use."
It's this laminated reel. You point an arrow to the kind of place you're fishing, like, "Open Water, Deep, Stumps, Stained," and if you manage to line the arrow up, with or without the reading glasses you forgot, little cutouts will show you if the water temp is this, you use this lure thing to catch fish.
The last time I saw anything like this was the old Buck Rogers Secret Decoder Dial in the Buck Rogers Walkie-Talkie set.
Jeff: "I sketched out the prototype on some lined paper while I was on guard duty."
db: "Dude. Can you say that?"
Jeff: "I'm retired. Here, this is the original design."
I envision Steve Jobs handing his dad a scrap of paper and saying, "What do you think? It's a personal computer." And Dad Jobs thinking, "I took out all my car restoring stuff for this."
But then I knew I was sitting across the bass tanks with a real, if semi-wacky, inventor when he told me this:
"I think things up all the time, when I do I call my own cell phone and leave myself a message saying what it was I just thought up, that way I don't forget the invention by the time I get home."
Trust me, that's what he said. I wrote it down, which I only do for the stuff I can get sued over.
I had a child once tell me, and it's one of my favorite quotes of all time, "I thought about it a lot and then I did what I thinked."
That's Jeff — he creates what he thinked. First Sgt. (ret) Jeff Barrentine is an inventor, make no mistake about that. For the past 10 years be it either in a tree stand, at home on his couch, or driving in his car and calling himself, his passion is "... building a better mousetrap."
And maybe someday we'll be paying homage to that tree stand.
The Smell Of Money
At the last few events I've had a retired Georgia cop follow me all around. And he stinks.
Now since I occasionally drive through Georgia I am not implying that any other Georgia cops stink, and in fact I'm pretty sure it's a Jade East or British Sterling kind of law enforcement going on there.
But J.J. Polak smells.
Undercover he is not.
At first, I thought it was me. I'm talking to him while trying nonchalantly to sneak my nose over my armpits (nothing) and stick out my lower lip and blow up in case the smell is in my mouth (nothing) all the while talking with J. J. and sniffing mightily.
Let me explain the odor. Let's say you go to a pizza joint and for some reason you order a pizza the size of Cleveland, and for another completely unknown reason you say when ordering, "Hey, on that pizza the size of Cleveland I'd like to have cheese, pepperoni and triple garlic spread on it."
Now, take away the smell of mozzarella, take away the smell of pepperoni, and what do you have left?
Don't be shocked at what I'm saying. J.J. knows he stinks like garlic. Garlic is pretty much his life. He makes some sort of garlic dipping sauce for BASS.
Yeah, I didn't believe it either.
Seems if you are in big hurry to catch bass, and you are fishing a lake that happens to have a pizza joint on it, you might want to consider flipping or pitching the take-out area.
Somehow, working out of his house, which I'm sure if you open your car window you won't need a GPS to find, J.J. has found a way to get the stink onto plastic lures and for the stink to stay there.
Trust me, anglers who use it don't need one of those little stickers on their tournament shirts.
Mr. Pamela Martin-Wells, Steve, a guy who has never called me anything but "Yankee," told me at the Southern Open, "Yankee, I use it all the time."
"Yeah, I know."
This is the guy who keeps trying to invite me to a dinner of squirrel. "Limb-rats," he calls them.
Steve: "Don't like nothing about garlic, don't like the smell, the taste, the little seed things that it is. But dang, the bass do. I tossed out about 20-25 yards one time with it on my lure, and this big bass crashed it and we drugged him back and all around the boat. He would never ever let go of that lure."
Pam Martin-Wells, who for the record calls me "db" and not "Yankee," won the Neely-Henry WBT event dipping the lures in garlic. "One time I'm in the front of the boat using it," she says, "and the co-angler in the back of the boat snaps her head around and says, 'What are you eating?" I say, 'Nothing,' and she says, 'You are too eating something and it smells delicious,' and I start laughing because it's my bait she's smelling."
Makes me want to go out and pitch an individual pan pizza to the weeds and see what happens.
"Hell, there are no rules here — we're trying to accomplish something."
Don Barone is an award-winning outdoor writer and a member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association. You can reach db at www.donbaroneoutdoors.com