Race drivers share our interests

I just spent a weekend around bass fishermen and NASCAR racers who share a common bond – love of fishing.

I saw that first-hand while helping NASCAR star Ryan Newman with his annual charity fishing tournament in North Carolina.

The tournament on Lake Norman is the largest fundraiser of the Ryan Newman Foundation and an event that has become immensely popular. This year’s fun-filled weekend attracted NASCAR drivers and crew members along with a few Bassmaster Elite Series pros and several North Carolina area anglers.

The event included a charity auction and dinner the night before the tournament. Competition attracted 200 two-man teams, many of whom were on hand at the dinner.

The event drew Bassmaster pros of past and present. Davy Hite, Dave Wolak, Jami Fralick, Boyd Duckett, Guy Eaker and Woo Daves are just a few of the guys who competed. Driver Martin Truex and several other NASCAR crew and team members living in the Charlotte area also competed and Sprint Cup champ Tony Stewart was on hand.

In addition, the Bassmaster tournament staff pitched in with manpower and the Bassmaster trailer/weigh-in stage for the event.

My job was to co-emcee the weigh-in with Mark Zona. After handling a lot of fish and trying to interview 200 anglers, I gained an even greater appreciation for the job that Dave Mercer does with the Elite Series. I had no idea how difficult it was until this task was handed to Zona and me.

The overall winners took home a Nitro Z-9 bass boat while other nice prizes were awarded in other divisions (husband/wife, seniors and father/sibling).

The auction and tournament raised several thousand dollars for Ryan’s foundation.

The charity will use the money to provide scholarships for students interested in auto racing careers; educate children and adults about conservation; and invest in domestic pet welfare projects. Ryan and his wife Krissie have five “rescue” dogs roaming the house, including one adorable animal named “Dunkin” that was abandoned at a Dunkin Donuts establishment.

Sherry and I stayed at Newman’s house along with Zona and pro angler Koby Kreiger. During the morning of the tournament, we went out to Ryan’s pond to catch a few bass.

I rigged a Strike King Red Eye Shad on Ryan’s rod and showed him how to work it in a yo-yo type retrieve, which was ideal for the cold-front conditions we were facing. He caught two 5-pounders on back-to-back casts; it made him a believer in the Red Eye Shad!

Also while in Charlotte, Sherry and I visited my brother, Brian, and his family.

Because of my business demands and the fact we live so far apart, we don’t get to see each other very often so that made the trip even more special.

And now, I get to spend a couple weeks at home recovering from the busiest offseason I’ve ever had. I’m looking forward to chilling out, hanging out with the family, doing a little deer hunting and taking a deep breath.

The much-needed time off gives me a chance to clear my head and start thinking about the Bassmaster Classic. It will be here before we know it!

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!