The roadies of bass

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All photos by Don Barone

“Now the seats are all empty…”

Dateline: B.A.S.S. Nation Championship

“Sal, we gotta go and never stop going 'till we get there.'
'Where we going, man?'
'I don't know but we gotta go.”
Jack Kerouac
On The Road

When I am dust, please sprinkle me between the two white lines of, The Road.

Roll down the top, put Chuck Berry in the 8-track, jam the Hurst shifter into fourth, and take the jar I’m in, hold it high, and open the top.

Lay me to rest, on two lane blacktop.

Lay me to rest, on the Pacific Coast Highway just north of Carmel.

Lay me to rest, on the Upper Deck of the George Washington Bridge.

Lay me to rest, on the crests and valleys of Route 29 in Virginia.

Lay me to rest, between the horizons on those straight Oklahoma Roads.

Lay me to rest, on the rural roads of America’s South and Midwest.

Lay me to rest, on the corner of Montrose and Decatur, where I was born.

Lay me to rest, on The Road.

The Road.

“…let the roadies take the stage…”

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”  
— Susan Sontag

Sure, many of us are out here for the game, for the moments when the line floats in the air, for that tiny splash that signals the bait and bass dance, for the hook set and the photo home of fish and loved one.

Sure.

But it is the siren song of big wheels licking pavement, that draws us, pulls us back.

The mystery of what’s around the bend, what’s over the hills, down in the valleys, it is about the chase of the new.

I’m not so sure it’s about knock, knock, as it is about, who’s there.

Who are you, where we come to, what you got, where we come to, what’s new, where we come to.

In my heart there lies someone, something, born to chase the horizon.

Someone, something that knows it will never catch it, knows the chase will never end.

And is okay with that.

“…pack it up and tear it down…" 

“It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy… Let’s go exploring!”
— Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes

I am, a roadie.

I tear down or set up nothing, but myself.

I get joy out of watching anglers win, but I also get as much joy out of watching you enjoy the show.

If you are sitting in a seat and watching something happen, what you are watching is a show, be it big, be it small, be it on a screen or stage, welcome to the show.

There is one part of the show though you never see, it happens at dawn and dusk, it happens as you travel to the show, or leave the show, it’s done by people whose names you will never know, folks though who are as Elite as those who stand on the stage they’ve built.

The roadies. 

Let me take you backstage, pull open the curtain so you see both sides of the game, and it begins with this, we have out here a moment that belongs only to us.  

A moment so special it is now, ritual. 

You don’t know about it because you are in your cars driving out of the parking lot, all the fish have been weighed, all the tanks have been drained, the fencing and sponsor signs are being rolled up and there comes a moment that binds us, those of us who work backstage, those of us out of the limelight, the roadies.

The ritual comes when our music guy, Shannon dials up one song, the only request we ever take, the lyrics of which I used long ago but which now have become the anthem for those out of sight who roll up the hoses, who fold up the stage, who jump in the cab and drive the show to the next stop. 

The song, The Load Out by Jackson Browne, his lyrics tie this story together.

The song you never hear us play is our way of saying “thank you” to those who carry the wrenches, those who lay out the expo, those who pilot the catch and release boat, those who without their heavy lifting there would be no show.

There would be no show if not for the men and women who climb in, under, and around the boats fixing what got broke, tweaking the motors for the 1 percent more horsepower that could mean a win, sitting hunched over in the rain reprogramming “the electronics,” the glow boxes that take the anglers out and bring them back safe.

We play the song for the busted knuckle crowd. 

And here they are.