A little anxious about being a Marshal for the first time, Bret Schmitz got plenty of bang for his buck in the 2019 Bassmaster Elite Series season opener on his home fishery, the St. Johns River.
So, Bret, you see anything exciting?
“Other than catching an 11-pounder on a wacky rig,” he said facetiously with a big laugh. “No, nothing at all.”
Schmitz, 52, of Daytona Beach, Fla., was in the boat when John Crews landed his 11-pound, 2-ounce behemoth, the largest fish of the B.A.S.S. season. Schmitz said he was a touch nervous and quiet at first, but that quickly abated.
“I wanted to establish a rapport and not get in his way,” he said, adding he knew he had to bite his tongue since he competes on the St. Johns in the Tedders Bass Club. “I couldn’t tell him anything about what I do, or where I go — it’s against the rules. I certainly didn’t want to do anything to put him in jeopardy.”
The Marshal program was created by B.A.S.S. in 2009 for observers to ride along with the pros. Interested parties, usually local anglers, ride in Elites’ boats for two to three days of fishing. While they can’t fish or offer any information on fishing, they are asked to enter weights in BASSTrakk, photograph fish catches and send blog posts for Bassmaster.com. They also assist in making sure all rules are followed.
Marshals are trained at a meeting then have a meet-and-greet with the Elites and dinner. They also receive Bassmaster Marshal apparel and products from tournament sponsors. Most report learning from the pros is the greatest benefit.
“It was special,” Schmitz said. “There were some techniques and things I saw — I did not realize how good these guys are skipping baits. That’s not in my wheelhouse. (Crews) would take a spinning rod with 10-, 12-pound test, with a long Senko, and he could skip that thing 10 feet under a branch. That was incredible. That’s how he caught that 11-pounder.”
It was a thrill to see Crews pull the bass out of a big mat on light tackle, said Schmitz, who actually has a larger bass to his credit as he’s surpassed 12 pounds.
“To see his face was exciting because it was his personal best,” Schmitz said. “To watch him try to catch his breath after getting that big girl in the boat, it was very fun.”
Schmitz sent in the following photo for publication on Bassmaster.com, and then he was called for their location and a camera boat was sent their way. Seeing such a catch was a bonus; his greatest benefit was seeing how the pros fish his body of water and learning techniques he might incorporate, like wacky rigs.