In anticipation of the 2019 season, B.A.S.S. invited all of the Elite Series anglers down to Birmingham, Ala., for a meeting that was part preparation, part media training and part pep rally. For the guys who live in the South, that’s not such a long haul, but it’s a 12- to 14-hour drive for me. It’s even longer for Seth Feider, so we planned to “carpool to work” together.
He did me a huge favor by offering to drive down in his truck and pick me up. It was especially generous because I needed to drop off my 2018 Phoenix and pick up my 2019.
Seth had a brand-new truck with like 400 miles on it, but he didn’t even blink an eye at the idea of using it. For all of you who haven’t really gotten to know him well yet, that’s just the type of guy he is – generous beyond belief. I’m really excited to be traveling with him this year. I didn’t want him to have to go a couple of hours out of his way to get me, so we agreed to meet in Davenport, Iowa.
We headed down to my dealership, Boat Works in Keyesport, Ill., and dropped off my 2018 boat, but before we got back on the road we had to fill our bellies, so we stopped into a little bar nearby to get one of their giant pork tenderloin sandwiches. I mean, the things are about as big as hubcaps so we’re rocking out on those, watching some football, and before we know it we’re unexpectedly in the middle of the local bass club’s meeting. This one guy turns to us, and he sees that Seth has literally bitten off more than he can chew and can’t talk – his mouth is full of pork – and the guy says to me, “Hey, you know your buddy looks kind of like Seth Feider.” I just about lost it. We ended up talking to him for a while (Seth joined in once he finished that bite), and it turned out that he was a local waterfowl guide with access to all sorts of incredible hunting. Seth is an absolute freak for ducks and geese, so it killed him to leave, but we had no choice. We were on a mission.
So we’re back in the truck, rolling through the night headed south of the Mason-Dixon Line. When we’ve traveled together before, we’ve been pulling our own boats with our own trucks, so we’ve never really gotten that much time just shooting the breeze or listening to music. It turns out we both have really eclectic taste in tunes. We listened to everything from the Doobie Brothers’ “You Belong to Me” to “Feds Watching” by 2 Chainz and Pharrell. One minute we’re punk kids riding in our parents’ vinyl-seated station wagons in the 70s or 80s, the next minute we’re two long hairs enjoying good hip hop.
We also had plenty of time to listen to the Bears game, and while I know he’s a diehard Vikings fan, Seth was really respectful and seemed to admire our team. He kept saying things like, “Man, your team is good.” If that stadium up in Minnesota crumbles again, maybe he’ll become a Bears fan, but until then we’ll stick together in hating on the gold and green.
We made it to Birmingham and I’ve got to tell you, the vibe was awesome. Fifty-five of the 75 Elite Series pros showed up, and some of the ones who didn’t make it had planned to attend but they were thwarted by the bad weather out east. The overall feeling is that everyone is thrilled with the new-look B.A.S.S. and we’re ready for a great year. It’s no accident that so many of the anglers posted similar pictures from the meetings on social media. That wasn’t planned or coerced or even subtly encouraged – we all did it because the room was on fire with excitement.
After it was over, we didn’t head straight home. Instead, Seth took me to an incredible store called Mark’s Outdoors, and when they recognized him they treated us like kings. I only spent about $75, because my wallet’s not as heavy as Seth’s. Let’s just say that his basket was overflowing and leave it at that. Still pumped up by the events of the week that far, we turned his truck north and headed up to grab my new boat and take it home. Seth did most of the driving. The dude is an absolute road warrior and only stopped to let me drive for a bit when he literally couldn’t keep his eyes open.
Just when I thought things couldn’t get better, I sealed the deal on Abu-Garcia and Berkley as my title sponsors for 2019. The first reel that I ever got as a kid that was new (not some hand-me-down piece of junk) was an Abu-Garcia, and I still have it today. When you see the #abuforlife hashtag, it’s the real deal. Same with Berkley. If you put me on a desert island with no food and no way to get off the island, but left me with some Flat Out Tungsten, Fusion Hooks and a couple of packs of Berkley Chigger Craws, I guarantee you I wouldn’t go hungry. I am pumped to smell like PowerBait for the rest of my life. This is the start of some very big things, and the season can’t come soon enough.