Look after the service crew

When I first started fishing pro level tournaments back in 2013, I got a good piece of advice from Canadian fishing legend Bob Izumi, who has enjoyed tournament success south of the border as well. “Always look after the service trailer guys” was what Izumi told me when I was on my way to my first tournament at Lake Okeechobee in Florida. He told me that if I ever had to visit the service yard for work on my equipment, give the guys a little something – a tip, a fishing lure, some sunglasses, something to show that you appreciate their hard work. It’s a rule that I live by today. They never want to take anything but slip it in their back pocket.

It was a good bit of advice that I would not have known to do had I not been told. Today, I have a good relationship with all of the service trailer folks. I have a great deal of respect for them and what they do. They travel around the country, are outside all day in every kind of weather imaginable, for much of the season that is extreme heat in the southern part of the country. They sometimes have to put up with attitude from some of the anglers that feel entitled and “need their stuff fixed right now.” I’ve seen some anglers pull up and demand service. It’s disappointing and unbelievable to see the attitude that the service guys have to deal with occasionally.

For anybody that is unfamiliar with the service yard, at our Bassmaster Elite Series events all of the major engine manufacturers, some of the boat manufacturers and the electronics brands and T-H Marine all have service technicians on hand to help us out should we have any problems with our equipment during competition. As anglers we’re very fortunate for this service, I don’t take it for granted. I have never had a major problem during actual competition, but I have had to visit the service yard for numerous little things over the years. Those visits keep me going on the water.

Recently at the 2021 Bassmaster Classic there were two events at the service yard that I want to recognize. The first was the retirement of long-time Mercury service specialist Scott Beatty. Any of the anglers that run a Mercury motor have probably spent some time with Scott, whether it was for a major fix or a simple update on their motor. He is a top-notch guy that I feel really grateful to have met and spent some time with. He made me feel extra confident in my motor, just knowing he was around or just by him telling me, “You’re good to go.”

If you run a different kind of motor you’ve probably still had an interaction with Scotty because, if the guys with Yamaha Outboards or Phoenix Boats or even Minn Kota ever needed an extra hand, he would be there helping out. The same thing happens will all the guys in the service yard. It’s one big team for the most part.

During the Classic week, Michelle Kilburn from Mercury threw a surprise retirement party for Scott while he worked his last event, which was awesome. He will be missed by all the anglers and the rest of the crew in the service yard.

On the final day of practice before the Classic I damaged the trailer for my boat and Trent Miller, the service rep from Skeeter, immediately stepped in to help me out. He fixed me up to use it on the first day of the tournament, and while I was out fishing he repaired the problem so I could drive home after the event. It was a really great gesture, and I’m very thankful. We’re very lucky on the Elite Series to have this great group of people looking after us.

To all of the up-and-coming anglers out there, if you ever have to visit the service yard, look after those guys and treat them great. They are very important to what we do.