Itching to get on the water

Last week I talked about the recent tragedies around the country, particularly in Oklahoma. This week I'm going to talk fishing ... sort of.

Recently I was in Tulsa for some business meetings with sponsors. If you think being a bass pro is all about fishing, you've definitely got another thing coming. Catching fish is certainly an important part of being a successful pro, but working with sponsors and helping them develop, promote and sell their products is the other part of the picture that a lot of people don't consider when they say they want to fish professionally.

I'm lucky in that I truly enjoy that part of our business. When I can't be on the water — and I'm on the water more than most — I love to spend time with people who share my passion for the sport and the products that enable us to succeed and enjoy it. I'm also fascinated by the marketing and sales efforts that go into the products my sponsors make. I guess when you spend as little time in a suit and tie as I do, it's easy to view a few days in a conference room as fun.

Catching fish and winning tournaments is sort of step one for becoming a bass pro. That's what gives you credibility and the eyes and the ears of the angling public. But it's the business end of things where you really get to make a difference by designing products, identifying needs and educating both sponsors and the public about equipment.

You can be a great tournament angler without having any sponsors (but you probably won't be able to afford it very long) and you can be a great promoter without catching any fish (but you won't attract many sponsors). Anyone who can do both has a place in the sport.

Changing the subject, I've finally found the middle ground between my fishing and my work for sponsors, and it's right in my backyard. My wife and kids call it our new swimming pool, but I know the truth. It's actually a lure test tank.

I've always wanted a swimming pool — I mean test tank — and it was finally finished last week. I've already run a few lures through it, too. One of my big reasons for wanting it is to study baits, especially some special ones I have that always seem to out-produce others even though they appear identical out of the water. You know what I'm talking about because I'll bet you've got some, too. They're the baits that you jump in after or climb the tree for if you hang them up.

That's me, hard at work on my new test tank. The little pool on the left is for finesse baits.

I'm hoping I can figure out what makes these lures special and recreate it with other baits. I also want to experiment with retrieves and see what baits really do at various speeds and cadences. We all have an idea of what our lures are doing underwater, but we don't often have a chance to actually see it.

Jimmye Sue and the kids have been warned that they need to watch out for hooks and sinkers and things like that when they go swimming. After all, it's a lure test tank first and foremost, right?

And speaking of being outdoors without actually going fishing, I was mowing the lawn the other day and got into a bunch of chiggers. They got all over my legs, and the itching just won't stop. I've tried all the old remedies I know, but nothing seems to work. If you've got a cure, I'd love to hear it.

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