Take a hike, 2020

What will you be doing when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve?

Will you simply lift a glass of champagne before smooching your significant other as always?

Will you finally have someone explain to you what the heck “Auld Lang Syne” means as you pretend once again to know all the lyrics to that tired, old song?

Or will you light your 2020 calendar on fire and dance around it with a group of friends and family members while flipping the middle finger to the craziest year of our lives?

I don’t dance, but the flaming calendar thing certainly isn’t out of the question.

In case you’ve lost count — which I did myself, and I’m paid to keep up with it — 2020 forced B.A.S.S. to reschedule about two dozen major fishing tournaments. Some of them had to be rescheduled multiple times.

I guess we should have seen the writing on the wall when high winds forced the cancellation of the first two days of the Bassmaster Elite Series season-opener on the St. Johns River in Florida. It shortened that tournament to a three-day event that ended on Monday instead of Sunday.

Then the next event, which was scheduled to start on Valentine’s Day at Chickamauga Lake, was postponed due to flooding. This all happened when COVID-19 was barely a blip on our radar.

They might never admit it, but some staff and anglers likely exhaled a little bit when the Chickamauga event was moved back because it gave us all time to focus on the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk on Lake Guntersville.

Now looking back, it seems like an absolute miracle we were able to hold that event at all. But we did it, had a great expo, drew a big crowd and crowned a new champion in classy North Carolina pro Hank Cherry.

Then 2020 started showing its true colors.

On the Tuesday after Cherry raised his Classic Trophy at Birmingham’s Legacy Arena, I drove seven hours to Venice, La., for a media trip with Vanishing Paradise.

During the drive, the bombshell news dropped that the NBA — a billion-dollar company and one of the biggest sporting organizations in the world — was shutting its season down.

Then came the news that college leagues all over the country had shut down their conference basketball tournaments, prompting the cancellation of some games that were already in progress.

Next was the NCAA basketball tournament — and every domino gave us a little bit better idea of what we were facing.

In this country, it’s always been true that all you have to do is follow the money to know what’s going on. When organizations start forgoing billions of dollars, things have gotten serious.

What was B.A.S.S. to do?

We hold events that bring hundreds of anglers from all over the country to one little spot — events that draw crowds of thousands into close quarters.

The first big COVID-19 casualty on our schedule was Lake Eufaula, slated for April 2-5. Then came the cancellation of the Santee Cooper event set for April 16-19 and the Sabine River tournament set for late May. Then Texas Fest in June.

The Elite events drew the most attention, but the effects were felt from the top of the trail down to the Opens, through the B.A.S.S. Nation and into college, high school and kayak.

Somehow, some way, the people who make our tournaments happen managed to reschedule most of the above-mentioned events. I remember posting on Facebook that watching them struggle to make the season happen was like seeing someone play Twister with porcupines.

The end result was the greatest northern swing B.A.S.S. has ever had and continued opportunities for anglers around the country to compete on the stage they love. It was rewarding, but I doubt any of our folks relish the idea of ever having to do it again.

So let’s be done with it.

Someday, I’ll be able to tell my kids how we survived 2020 and I worked for an organization that kept anglers fishing when few opportunities existed.

But for now I’d just like to say, “Take a hike, 2020 — and don’t let the door hit you in the backside on the way out.”