BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The excitement of sportfishing is returning to Alabama, and bass fishing enthusiasts who want to learn from the world’s best anglers can register as marshals for the Bassmaster Elite at Lake Guntersville Sept. 30-Oct. 3 in Scottsboro.
“Under professional sports guidelines in New York and Michigan we couldn’t have marshals at our three most recent events,” said Tournament Director Trip Weldon. “We’re glad to safely welcome marshals back into the boat for our upcoming event in Scottsboro.”
As part of ongoing precautions against the spread of COVID-19, marshals, athletes and staff will participate in daily health screenings via the CrewMinders safety check platform and are asked to adhere to local guidelines on face coverings.
According to past participants, marshaling is the ideal way to learn while enjoying a day on the lake getting to know your favorite pro.
“Being able to see how the top pros fish a body of water you may fish frequently or may fish in a future tournament is absolutely invaluable,” said Rick Moore, a retired California resident who has served as a marshal in 23 B.A.S.S. events. “The enthusiasm among the Elite pros is great, and their connection and interaction with marshals was exceptional!
“I have been able to see many of the new bait prototypes, learn new techniques and receive personal tips from the Elite pros at many tournaments. As a marshal, the pros will be candid about what and why they are fishing a certain way. I can't count the number of times a pro has had me join him on the front deck to show how he was interpreting his graphs or reading the movements of a bedding fish.”
The marshal program, created by B.A.S.S. in 2009 as a way to attract observers who would ride along with the pros, allows people to spend two to three days on the water with some of the best professional anglers in the sport. Marshals are not allowed to fish, but they are encouraged to take photos, send blog posts to Bassmaster.com and serve as an extra set of eyes for B.A.S.S. tournament officials, making sure all rules are observed. Additionally, marshals operate the digital BASSTrakk scoring system that enables fans to follow the action in real time.
For Moore, both enforcing the rules and chronicling the tournament are part of the benefit of serving as a marshal.
“I enjoyed the responsibility of being the ‘eyes and ears' on the water,” said Moore. “B.A.S.S. has a long history of big bass tournaments, and being able to do my part to assist with ensuring the sanctity of the event has been a welcomed challenge.”
Marshal spots are available for just $99 per tournament. As part of the experience, marshals will receive official Bassmaster marshal apparel and products from tournament sponsors. Every marshal is guaranteed to be on the water for the first two competition days. As the Elite Series field is cut throughout the weekend leading up to Championship Saturday in Scottsboro, marshals are chosen for additional competition days based on how early they register for the event as well as their video, blogging and photography in the preliminary rounds.
“Just sitting in the boat would make for a long day without photographing the tournament, Skyping with the TV team during live coverage and helping with Bassmaster media content,” Moore said. “And many of my photos have also been used by the pros for their social media content.”
One of the 2020 season’s most exciting clips — rookie Kyle Welcher catching a 10-pounder at the St. Johns River — was shot on an iPhone by his marshal, Les Cook, and has since been reaired during ESPN2 and Bassmaster LIVE coverage.
“Kyle had a few bites throughout the day, and I tried to make it a point to capture all of his catches on video, but when he said, ‘Big one dude,’ I knew something was different,” said Cook, of St. Augustine, Fla.
Serving as a St. Johns marshal fulfilled what Cook said had been a longstanding bucket list activity. Having spent earlier years fishing South Dakota club tournaments, he was intrigued by the opportunity of taking a front-row seat to live-action learning.
“I’ve always wanted to be in a position to sit with a pro, learn their techniques and thought processes and become a better fisherman myself,” Cook said. “I wanted to go to new waters and figure out how to fish those new waters."
The marshal experience appeals to those from all walks of life and anyone ready to gather tips and tricks from seasoned fishermen.
“From the first morning with your angler to behind the stage with the winner on the final day, a lot of inside stories develop that you would never know as a strict observer,” Moore said. “It takes the serious bass fisherman to a different level as a fan.”
Registration is available at Bassmaster.com or by phone at (877) BASS-USA.