ORLANDO, Fla. — Being the recipient of a boat makeover has David Lowrie scratching his head a bit as to why him, but he’ll take it.
Lowrie, who has helped grow the sport as Tennessee B.A.S.S. youth director, had his boat “stolen” and upgraded by Humminbird and Minn Kota during ICAST 2019. He got emotional at the Thursday reveal on the showroom floor. Less than a week later, he’s out learning more about his new equipment while prepping to take others out for a tournament.
“You’re never going to hear me say I deserved it,” he said, “but boy do I feel blessed. And no, I’m not going to give it back.”
With some help from B.A.S.S. and his son, the companies towed his boat from Tennessee to Orlando, Fla., and had experts explain the installation process of products to a live internet audience. Thinking that he was the recipient of such a grand gesture humbled Lowrie.
“First of all, nobody expects something like that to happen to them,” he said. “The idea that I got picked is mind blowing. I don’t think I’m a bad guy, but I’m not the greatest guy in the world. I’ve done some good stuff, but I’m sure there’s people who’ve done plenty more. You feel blown away and so honored.”
Brought to ICAST on the ruse that he was to speak about his role in youth programs, Lowrie was overcome with emotional when Humminbird’s Jeff Kolodzinski pulled a cover off the boat he was standing in front of, revealing $20,000 of equipment upgrades on his 2006 Skeeter.
As a state employee for the past two decades, Lowrie said there was no way he could have afforded the products. Minn Kota installed an Ultrex with MEGA Down Imaging, a Precision charger and two Talons, and Humminbird installed two SOLIX 15 CHIRP MEGA SI+ G2 units, 360 and LakeMaster mapping. Along with those One-Boat Network items from Johnson Outdoors, others to work on Lowrie’s boat included Rigid Industries, T-H Marine, Battle Born Batteries and JL Audio.
It will take some time to learn about the replacements for his older Humminbird 998 and 958 units and most everything else.
“I’m a Humminbird guy, but to go turnaround from those graphs to these, it’s like having a super computer to an old box TV set,” Lowrie said. “I can’t wait for the kids to get out and see what’s what.”
Those “kids” include his son, Hank, who as a 6-year-old first asked to fish in a bass tournament. In a “very selfish deal,” Lowrie made that happen, and many more, and his involvement in youth sports expanded greatly in bass fishing.
“Before I knew it, there’s all these other kids in it, and it grows and it grows,” Lowrie said.
Hank Weldon, B.A.S.S. tournament director for the college, high school and junior circuits, can verify Lowrie’s success in giving back. Weldon was in on the big surprise. Johnson Outdoors contacted B.A.S.S. as it sought a list of candidates.
“We gave them a few names, and they essentially chose David Lowrie,” Weldon said of the Desert Storm veteran. “It’s his selflessness — that’s why he was chosen. He puts the kids in the state of Tennessee above anything personal. He would much rather spend all his time getting kids out on the water than getting out himself.”
When Lowrie took over the Tennessee youth program in 2013, it was basically dead last in membership among the states. He worked strategically, and now it’s the largest youth organization under B.A.S.S. Lowrie wasn’t that stunned. He felt the program just needed a little push.
“I envisioned Tennessee growing in the very beginning — this is a sport that kids are going to go crazy for,” Lowrie said. “We scratched and clawed with very little numbers, and we just worked at it and just kept building it.”
There was plenty of help, Lowrie said, from regional directors and the community as they built the program up from around 200 to 1,400 youth. Lowrie is a product of Coalmont in Grundy County, which received some negative press recently as the poorest county in the state. Lowrie didn’t appreciate negative press because he said the folks in his area are the salt of the earth.
“While we don’t have that much, we also have more in heart and taking care of each other and anybody’s ever seen,” he said, following up with examples.
Recently, people in the county raised around $40,000 for families of youth who died in a tragic ATV accident and another still recovering in the hospital. Like the brotherhood of fishing, neighbors help others out there.
“I was in Desert Storm. I was in Saudi Arabia and Iraq for a total of 214 days. I received over 1,000 letters and — I kept a count — I received 70 or 80 huge care packages, with food and treats, diaper wipes and things to help keep us clean,” Lowrie said. “The majority of that came from this mountain and this community.
“I would write home about others not getting anything and, before I knew it, they would get a box. I watched grown men cry over care packages with Nilla wafers and Chicken In A Biskit crackers cause they were so tired of eating MREs. It was my community here who sent boxes to people they didn’t know because I asked them to. We take care of each other in Grundy County.”