The FYI on AOY: Fill in the blanks


Don Barone

Dateline: Elites at Chesapeake Bay

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”
― Robert F. Kennedy 

In my high school yearbook the FYI on me was left blank because that is what they expected I would become. 


Let me repeat that: nothing.

The cheerleaders weren’t blank, neither was the quarterback, nor the “honor” children, not blank the chess club, not blank the language club, not blank the pretty girl who could sing like “Mame” in the school musical.

Those who ace SATs, those who get As and Bs, not blank.

They measure those who could spell, those who could add, I suked at both, but had they measured the fire within my soul, had they measured that, had they, I would have made the cover of the yearbook. 

Being blank cost me 10 years of creativity.

Let me put it in better terms, in my peak earning years, being blank cost me a million bucks.

In its most simplistic terms winning Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year eliminates the blank after an Elite Angler's name.

Angler of the Year gets you the cover shot.

“Only those who attempt the absurd can achieve the impossible.”
― Albert Einstein

We have a race going on here, which is very cool. So basically there are two story lines out here, one obviously about the event and who wins it, the other that might slip by you involves the yearlong Angler of the Year competition.

Now, don’t get this AOY stuff mixed up with what happens in many other sports when they announce who the MVP of the sport is. Here’s why: MVP means Most Valuable Player, the key word there is player.

Player to me is a team concept so during the Super Bowl when you hear who won the MVP of the game it’s who those who cover the game, the sports reporters, think did the most to help the team win the game.

In the history of the Super Bowl there’s been only one MVP from the losing team, Chuck Howley of the Dallas Cowboys in 1971. In baseball’s World Series only one in the entire history of the game, Bobby Richardson of the NY Yankees in 1960, won it while playing on the losing team.

In the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL the MVP is decided by the votes of those who cover the respective sports. 

In our AOY system only one person votes…the angler who wins it.

That’s the cool part, it’s not me and a bunch of the guys who write about the sport sitting in some Hampton Inn jawing it out on who should be the 2018 Angler of the Year, here we let it be determined out there on the field of play. 

And that is how it should be.

We leave the “blank” up to them. 

“When you stop chasing the wrong things you give the right things a chance to catch you.”
― Lolly Daskal

This week's event is like the lead singer at a concert, it is front and center, but the AOY race right now is like the backup singers, 20 feet from center stage.

Pay attention to that part of this gig as well. 

We have here maybe five, maybe 10 anglers (depending on math I can’t figure out) all with a shot to hoist the AOY trophy above their head at the end of the year, and you need to be aware of that because trust me, those anglers are very aware of it. 

When I first got here I didn’t think to much of this AOY stuff, mainly because of whence I came from and the fact that people not in the game voted on who they thought was the best in the game without once ever lining up against them. 

I confused AOY decided on the field of play with MVP decided up in the press box.

My guess is that if you asked the players who just played the game who was the MVP it might be a different pick from those who didn’t get any sweat on them from the game.

In the NFL I would only vote for the massive guys who block.

Just saying. 

So I came here with a skewed view of this award, not anymore.

Many of the guys out here revere it as much as winning the Bassmaster Classic.

The Classic is the big show, no doubt and if it was me it would be the gig I would want to win the most, but it is a three-day tournament, AOY on the other hand is a season-long quest.

Day in, day out, tournament after tournament, state after state, lake after lake, mile after mile earning points.

Every tourney we do comes with points, win it you get the most points, come in last you get the least. It’s a moving scale from top to bottom and throughout the year we keep track of what place the angler ended up in each tournament, add all those points per tournament up and the one with the most points at the end of the year wins.

We have added at the end of the regular season an AOY tournament which I still don’t quite get but the bottom line is that he who ends the year with the most points wins Angler of the Year and that is as it should be. 

Let them decide it between themselves, we need to step out of the way and let the anglers decide it so props to B.A.S.S. for figuring that out long before I seem to have.

“No man is truly great who is great only in his lifetime. The test of greatness is the page of  history.”
― William Hazlitt

To those 20 feet from center stage, play the tournament in front of you, play the water you are floating on, at this point so close and where every point matters so much, every cast counts.

Every ounce counts, every decision counts, if what you are doing doesn’t accomplish your goal, change what you are doing, it is not the time to be stubborn or force what isn’t working.

Take what the field gives you.

We have the page made out all that’s left is your name on it and that’s up to you, not us.

Not us. 

In the end it isn’t about the Rolex on your wrist, the fast sports car in the garage, GQ looks or your shoes someone else has shined.

In the end it comes down to the first few words spoken or written after your name.

Trust me, don’t let that space be blank.

But in truth, as I have learned, only you can fill it in, let not others do it for you because of that you have no control.

You in your life are the only one who can fill in:  …loving husband, loving father, cared for…

You in this game are the only one who can fill in:  …Angler of the Year.

It is up to only each and every one of us to fill in the blanks about ourselves, and that too is how it should be.

To all those who dream of center stage here at this Elite gig, to all those who dream of taking the 20 steps to center stage of the AOY gig, may the blank after your name be filled in the way of your dreams.

And to those who left it blank after my name. Thank you for lighting the fire within my soul.

I done filled in that blank myself.


“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.”
― David Brinkley