The 2018 Bassmaster Classic is in the books, and I feel like, yet, another piece of me has been removed.
Now some folks might ask: How can fishing a bass tournament remove a piece of you? It’s not like you’re working the table saw at the mill…
Well, it’s something that’s hard to explain.
People have asked me what’s it like to fish the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods. The best way I can describe it is to say it’s sort of like riding a bull named Fu Manchu while playing a game of chess while tight rope walking across the Grand Canyon while taking a final examine in calculus while outrunning a tornado while sky diving while asking the most beautiful girl on campus out on a date – all at the same time.
Now that may sound like a bunch of nonsense, but thanks to the incredible live coverage at B.A.S.S., I think fishing fans are now starting to see not only how electrifying the highs are, but also just how devastating the lows are at the Classic.
The Bassmaster Classic is like no other fishing contest on earth. Just to qualify for it requires a large donation of blood, sweat and tears. And by design it’s a winner-take-all event. No one goes to the Classic asking, “Well, how much weight is it going to take to get a check in this derby?”
It’s the biggest stage in the sport of bass fishing, and it basically forces you to bear your soul and tell the world – for the record – "I’m going to win this thing! I’m all in! No one remembers second! I exude excellence! If you ain’t first, you’re last!" These are not just macho statements Classic competitors make to sound like Ricky Bobby.
Since there is just one winner, that means more than a handful are going to leave crushed to pieces; needless to say, after 17 Classics with no wins, I’m an authority on this particular topic.
Yes, I can pick up the pieces and compose myself long enough to put a smile on my face, shake the winner’s hand, do exit interviews and sign autographs, but when I finally get home to lick my wounds I realize there are some pieces still missing. Somewhere between the exhilarating flurries, the gut wrenching lost fish, the private tears, the dodging behind the service trailers in the boat yard to puke up my regrets, some pieces got lost. You can put ol’ Humpty Dumpty back together again, but at some point you realize the yolk got cooked on the pavement.
On two occasions I have zeroed a day in the Classic – both times after I had won AOY. Let’s take a second to review that … here comes the most consistent angler in the Elite Series all season to weigh in for the Bassmaster Classic and he’s got … nothing … nada … zero.
Still haven’t found those pieces.
I have been DQed from a competition day in a Classic for a bad judgment call in boat driving.
Yep, those pieces are still lost.
In 2005, I finished third in the Classic on the Three Rivers in Pittsburgh. I lost that one by a pound to a guy named Kevin VanDam. I weighed in just four fish that last day and jumped the winning fish off three times.
I’ve never admitted this to anyone until now: After that Classic my wife and I holed up in friend’s camper in the woods for four days. I hardly ate or slept; I didn’t talk to anyone.
I just looked for the pieces.
No other tournament does that to you.
This is not a post-Classic pity party; it’s simply an admission that when you take the risk to ride the highest of highs – to ride that bull, to jump from the airplane, to walk the wire – there’s a chance you could lose something that you’ll never get back. The Bassmaster Classic is that high and Bassmaster LIVE now catches the pieces flying off when the crushing happens.
Now, like never before, people watched as Jason Christie scrapped and scraped with every fiber of his being to get just one more keeper in the boat to win the world’s biggest bass fishing event.
People watched as Brent Ehrler had final-day flurries so promising that he had to have tasted victory for a moment or two, only to be left choking on the stench of second place.
And they got see the sparks and pieces fly off me as I saw a glimmer of possibility get ripped off in the wall.
I don’t care who you are, if you’ve had a close call with a Classic win and still haven’t won, there is a piece of you still missing.
Which begs the question: Is there a way to ever get those pieces back? Is there a place where all those pieces of me collect, like change lost in the couch cushions? Is there a way to ever fill in the holes?
Maybe, just maybe if I could stay on for Fu Manchu for 8 seconds, call check mate, reach the other side of the Grand Canyon, ace Calculus, dodge a tornado and parachute down to sweep my wife LeAnn off her feet and give her a ride around that arena in a bass boat, then and only then, I might be able to find those missing pieces of me.