My three-week adventure in being a Bassmaster Super Marshal came to a close on Monday when Lee Livesay hoisted the coveted blue trophy at the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Chickamauga Lake. What I brought home with me was another tremendous experience on an amazing fishery, a notebook full of tips and another great experience with some of the best anglers on the planet.
Here are my top 10 takeaways from Chickamauga Lake:
1. Kudos to the great folks in Dayton, Tenn., for their efforts in hosting a great event last week. This was actually the third reschedule of the tournament this year, and the town of 7,000 people hosted a wonderful event. They earned the right to be considered among the best bass fishing destination communities in the United States.
2. If you’ve served as a Bassmaster Marshal before, you know the name Lisa Talmadge. If you don’t know Lisa, you’re missing out on one of the most respected people at B.A.S.S. With longtime Elite Series Tournament Director Trip Weldon forced to miss the event at Chick, Lisa stepped up in her role as the tournament manager and carried the torch. It was Lisa that made the decision to hold the anglers on Sunday, two and a half hours, for their safety due to the thick fog that hung over the lake. Lisa showed great leadership last week and definitely had the respect of everyone involved in the event. If you know Lisa, you’re not at all surprised.
3. Soft plastic surgery: With the grass in full play last week at Chick, many of the Bassmaster Elite Series pros were in search of a frog bite. Very few of these anglers, if any, will fish their frog straight out of the package. While I was fully aware of that ahead of last week, I was somewhat intrigued to see the lengths the professionals will go to in an effort to maximize the performance of their frog. Some anglers removed the skirts completely from their frog while others trimmed the skirts. Some added rattles to their frog, and some added steel shot or bee bees in order to get the right amount of sound from their frog. I was in the boat with one angler last week that inserted the tube-like drop-shot weights into his frog for weight and rattle.
4. Positive energy: I was given the opportunity to spend Saturday with Chad Pipkens, and I’m not sure if there is a more positive angler on the Bassmaster Elite Series. Pipkens caught a keeper bass just after 8:30 a.m. and didn’t boat his second fish until 3:30 p.m. That’s seven hours between keepers, but that never deterred Pipkens who remained extremely upbeat and positive throughout the day and believed his next cast would be the fish that changed the day. That happened at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday when fish No. 2 went 7-11 and made the way for Pipkens to fish on Sunday and ultimately Monday.
5. A game of ounces: I stood behind the weigh-in stage with Austin Felix on Sunday. I rode with Felix that day and waited with him to see his tournament fate unfold. Felix and Kyle Welcher were in a tie for ninth place with Welcher holding the tiebreaker. One angler remained to weigh in and that was Gerald Swindle. The G-Man needed 9-12 to bump Felix from the Top 10 and punch his ticket for Championship Monday. G’s weight was 9-10 — 2 ounces short — which meant Felix would go out on Monday in 10th place. Why were those 2 ounces so important? At the time, Felix was leading Kyle Welcher in the Bassmaster Rookie of the Year standings by 20 points, and he trailed David Mullins by 10 points in the Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. Felix, by virtue of fishing Monday in 10th place, improved upon that with a fifth-place finish at Chick. This allowed him to extend his lead in the Rookie of the Year standings to 26 points over Welcher, and he cut David Mullins AOY lead to five points with one event remaining in the season. If Felix is able to go on to Lake Fork and win the Bassmaster Rookie of the Year and even the Bassmaster Angler of the Year, those 2 ounces, the weight of two slices of bread, will have been life-changing for Felix.
6. Local pressure: There were a number of guys licking their chops when the Bassmaster Elite Series schedule included a stop on Chickamauga Lake. In fact, many people thought, given the time of year, that the Tennessee River guys or local guys would have a distinct advantage in this derby, but they didn’t. Being a local generally carries more pressure than advantages. Consider Buddy Gross (36th), Brandon Lester (50th) and Carl Jocumsen (47th) among those that fell victim to the local curse.
7. “Fishing is ups and downs!” Those were the words uttered by Carl Jocumsen on stage Saturday when he cemented his 47th place finish in the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Chickamauga Lake. Prior to this season, Jocumsen and his wife moved to Chick and established their residence on the Tennessee River fishery. Coming off a second-place finish last week at Santee Cooper, Jocumsen was poised to ride that momentum into a fishery he’s spent the last year getting acclimated to, and it just didn’t work out for him last week.
8. “Might as well stay four days.” On Friday, I had the opportunity to serve as the Marshal for Lee Livesay. At one point during the morning lull of fishing, we were engaged in conversation. I asked Livesay if he felt any added pressure or anxiety with the season coming to a close and knowing he is a long shot to make the Bassmaster Classic in his home state. Livesay told me that he’s won more money on Ray Roberts than any other Texas fishery, and while he’s not going to make it in on points, he’s got two opportunities left fishing the Central Division of the Bassmaster Opens to win and punch his ticket to the Classic. “As soon as I get cut here, I’ve got to hustle down to Neely Henry because practice starts Sunday,” said Livesay. “Did you pack for four days this weekend?” I asked Livesay. He nodded yes. “Then since you’re packed for four days, you might as well hang around and win this thing,” I told him.
9. Outwork the water: When packing for Chick, I made sure to include my Carhartt Storm Defender rain gear. Not that we had rain last week at Chick, but the Storm Defender gear is the most versatile and most dependable gear you can possess for your day on the water. The Storm Defender is flawless in the rain, but it also cuts the wind and will keep you extremely warm when layered with other clothing. Plus, it’s light and packable. I owned rainsuits from two other competitor brands that I replaced after being introduced to the Carhartt Storm Defender gear. Try some for yourself today at www.Carhartt.com, and you won’t be disappointed.
10. With one more event remaining in the 2020 Bassmaster Elite Season, there aren’t any Bassmaster Marshal opportunities remaining in the season. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — this is the best program going at B.A.S.S. If you’re serious about becoming a better angler and want to experience bass fishing at the highest level, then I would encourage you to reserve your spot to be a Bassmaster Marshal in 2021. You won’t be disappointed.