New challengers await

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Bassmaster Marshal

The near-instant success of a new young angler should put all of the fishing world on notice.

Hardcore baseball fans are no doubt familiar with the story of Wally Pipp.

Pipp was a standout first baseman for the mighty New York Yankees from 1915 through the early 1920s. But then one day in 1925, he decided to take a day off.

He was replaced in the starting lineup by a guy named Lou Gehrig — and more than 2,000 straight games later, Gehrig was still manning first base for the Bronx Bombers.

Pipp has become the poster child for not letting up. He’s the athlete many sports fans think of first when a star skips a few practices or dogs it a little bit during a game when the action is particularly tough.

His name is even used as a verb. When someone gets replaced for falling off the pace a bit, people say that person got “Pipped.”

I won’t go so far as saying the entire field at the AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at the St. Johns River got pipped back in February. But at the very least, they received a memo written on Wally Pipp letterhead.

The message was simple: Someone new is always waiting to take your spot. In this case, it was 31-year-old North Carolina rookie Bryan New.

A $100,000 victory by a new guy whose name is actually New is low-hanging fruit for those of us who enjoy creative wordplay.

But it’s also grandly symbolic of what can happen in a sport where new competitors are constantly emerging.

New left the dock that first morning at the St. Johns River having fished a grand total of eight B.A.S.S. events. His bio page lists five sponsors — and without the B.A.S.S. shield, which is mandatory for all competitors, his jersey would have looked downright bare.

He motored out that first morning with veterans like Greg Hackney, Seth Feider, Mark Menendez and Hank Cherry. Then he wound up standing toe to toe with all of them as he came from behind and then pulled out the victory by almost 10 pounds.

Since we’re already using baseball analogies, we can kind of say that New called his shot at the St. Johns.

Before the tournament, he was asked about his chances of winning the Bassmaster Rookie of the Year title. He responded by saying he wants to win Angler of the Year and the Bassmaster Classic and let ROY take care of itself.

So if you’re scoring at home ...

Youth? Check.

Enthusiasm? Check.

Ability? Check.

Confidence? Double check.

I can assure you none of this is enough to scare the likes of Hackney, Cherry or Menendez. They all likely left Palatka, Fla., thinking, “Let’s see you do it for the long haul, Bryan.”

But the near-instant success of a new young angler should put all of the fishing world on notice.

Fishing isn’t like baseball, where only a certain number of players exist who can hit 500-foot home runs or throw 90-mph fastballs.

This is a sport that can be learned and enjoyed by everyone. It’s a sport that is tailor-made for people of all shapes and sizes, all colors and nationalities and all genders.

Because of that, it’s a sport where, if you let up for even a minute, someone New is waiting to take your place.