Photographer James Overstreet and I spent the final day of the Elite season following the new Angler of the Year, Greg Hackney. That's kind of a bookend on the year for me.
At most of the Elite tournaments this year I rode with Steve Bowman. I only spent two days this year covering a tournament with James.
The other day was the finale of the first 2014 Elite tournament, which was on Lake Seminole in Georgia. That day we followed leader Brett Hite. He had a monster day, catching an 8-pounder 30 minutes before coming off the water.
Brett won that one by 10-pounds, putting an exclamation mark on his first Elite tournament.
For the record, that's two days with Overstreet, and two days chronicling the exploits of champions.
There are a few things I'll remember about both days.
On Day 4 at Seminole, Brett was majorly fired up, celebrating in a big way when he caught big bass. When he held that 8-pound bass high above his head, Brett displayed the kind of joy you'd expect when a young man wins his first Elite event.
That tournament ended a couple hours early, because a storm front brought in heavy rain, lightning and thunder. It rained so hard and fast during the abbreviated weigh-in, spectators were standing in ankle-deep water.
Tournament Director Trip Weldon made a good move that day, calling anglers in before the storm hit.
Greg Hackney lived through three days of cancellations, when powerful winds kicked up the fresh water ocean known as Lake Michigan. For him, the big challenge had to be mental. He talked about preparing himself mentally each day to fish, and then struggling to unwind after the fishing was cancelled.
For the first half of Monday, he was focused and intense. Through much of the morning he had only four pounds in the livewell. But he didn't come unglued. And he didn't stray from his game plan, fishing the same two spots that worked for him on Day 1.
With no idea how Todd Faircloth was doing, Greg didn't really celebrate at all. But when he reached 15 pounds in his livewell, the mood lightened up on his boat. We could hear some laughter and a little more chatter.
And when he learned on stage he'd won AOY, he showed a lot of emotion, tearing up several times, unable to talk.
I don't think Overstreet and I brought any extra luck to Hite and Hackney — in fact we just followed the assignments Bowman had laid out for us. But it sure was an honor watching two champions ply their trade.
And it was a true pleasure working with one of the best outdoor photographers in the business, James Overstreet, on two of the most significant days on the B.A.S.S. 2014 calendar.