There's a scene in the baseball movie The Natural when Robert Redford's character Roy Hobbs is so overcome with emotion when talking about the game, that all he could do was utter four words that basically captured the essence of two hours' worth of celluloid.
"God, I love baseball."
That movie scene was the very first thing that popped into my mind when covering the final day of the Bass Pro Shops Southern Open No.3 on Alabama's Smith Lake in September. Jesse Wiggins, the 27-year-old bass fishing phenom who lives in nearby Cullman, Ala., had just won his second Open tournament of the year with a three-day total of 39 pounds, 15 ounces – a haul more than 5 pounds heavier than his nearest opponent.
Wiggins also finished in 37th place in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race, so the second Open win of 2017 actually "triple qualified" him for the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods.
That's heady stuff, and everyone knew it, including Wiggins, who was just about speechless on stage after his win at Smith Lake. A large throng of friends and family urged him to words, however.
"I just wanted to win so bad, and now it's here," he said to the crowd's roar of approval. "I'm speechless."
"I just love bass fishing," Wiggins said.
(Cue the Hollywood lightning bolt and the home run that smashed light poles and showered the field in luminescent sparks.)
No word if Wiggins has ever seen The Natural...it was released five years before he was born, after all. But know this much: If he keeps fishing the way he has the past few years, we may be calling Jesse Wiggins "The Natural" before too long, if some of us haven't started already.
B.A.S.S. asked contributors, staff and anglers to reflect on their favorite moments of 2017. You can read more of them here.