Gratitude in tough times

As I write this, we just got the word that the Bassmaster Elite Series event on Cayuga has been canceled. That’s disappointing for a variety of reasons, perhaps the least of which is that it’s a lake where I’ve had two good finishes in the past. Coming off a solid performance at the Central Open in Muskogee, I’m eager to move up the Elite Series points standings, so it would be easy to feel sorry for myself, but the more I think about it, my goal here is to express gratitude to the people who are working hard behind the scenes. 

Make no mistake, everyone wants these events to happen. We want to fish. B.A.S.S. wants us to fish. The sponsors want us to fish. The host communities want us to fish. Despite all of that sentiment, no one wants to spread or contract a virus about which we still know very little.

Right now, after a week of uncertainty about whether we’d go to Cayuga, with our emotions getting flipped back and forth constantly, we have to take a step back and see what happened. We had a ton of momentum coming off of the Elite Series return at Eufaula, which provided tons of live coverage on ESPN2. As anglers, we want to fish as many events as we can – that’s how we make our money and how we gain exposure.

Nevertheless, as New York put in their restrictions on travelers from certain states, the easiest thing for B.A.S.S. to do would have been to abruptly decide to cancel or move the event. They didn’t do that. I know for a fact that several staffers got very little sleep during the week they fielded our calls and worked double time to find a way to make the events happen. Ultimately the clock ran out on this one, but I have every confidence that they’ll do what they can to get us to the St. Lawrence – which will always have a special place in my heart – and then on to Champlain. 

Why not move the tournaments to venues that aren’t similarly restricted with respect to the virus? I’m sure that there are cities and towns that would love to host us, even on short notice. It might be the only way to salvage a full slate of events.

The reason that B.A.S.S. didn’t do this, as far as I can tell, is because of the organization’s deeply-held loyalty to communities. The relationship between a tournament organization and the host communities is a two-way street. In fact, it’s even more complex and nuanced than that when you consider the anglers and the fans as well. While new tournament waters are always welcomed on the schedule, we appreciate the rabid fans in places like Plattsburgh, N.Y., and Orange, Texas, and Anderson, S.C. I don’t mean to leave anyone out, but those are three really good examples. It’s fun to see them repeatedly and to see how much our presence means to them. 

Additionally, some of those areas may have been economically hurt or burdened by the virus just like we have – maybe even worse, as New York was one of the first states to shut down. If we can provide some income and some entertainment for them, it’s our obligation to do so. 

As anglers, we talk all of the time about the need to “control those variables that you can control.” Usually that’s referring to on-the-water performance, but as we’ve lived through this pandemic I’ve realized that it applies to every aspect of life, even when there aren’t any tournaments going on. I can take this opportunity to control the things that are within my power by building content, catching up with my sponsors and undertaking maintenance on all of my equipment.

That means that when we do get started back up – and I know that we will at the right time – I’ll be able to focus on the fish and not be distracted by other factors. It’s easy to fall into the trap of blaming someone else, but in this situation the best path is to see what people are doing to make things better, not to obsess about the things that aren’t going as we want.

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