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Dear B.A.S.S.

Jonathon VanDam and Bassmaster Marshal Steven Thomas

By Steven Thomas

I would like to send a message of gratitude to the B.A.S.S. organization for my recent experience as a Bassmaster Marshal. 

Two days before Christmas, I received a letter in the mail stating that I had been selected to be a Marshal for the Bassmaster Elite Series on Kentucky Lake. To say that I was excited for the opportunity to be a Marshal for the best bass fishermen in the world would be an understatement. I marked it on my calendar and looked very much forward to it from that day.

As the time drew near, I started thinking about what to expect during the event. What it would be like to be a Marshal? What it would be like to be around these pros of the sport that I idolize? I soon had answers to some of the questions. I also thought about how I could learn from these pros, different techniques, different lures, different ways of doing things, to be successful out on the water? The following is my description of how things went and what I learned.

Marshal meeting at Kentucky Lake.

First off, there was a meeting of the Marshals to lay the groundwork of what we truly are there for. The B.A.S.S. staff was amazing, friendly and helpful. They made time for any and all questions. Then it was off for a brief introduction, meeting, and breaking of bread with the pros.

When I entered that building, it was like a kid walking into his first toy store. To open the doors and to lay eyes on 108 of the best pro fishermen in the world, the ones I watched regularly on TV and Bassmaster LIVE, I was awestruck at first. It was really, really cool. Amazingly, just seconds after that, I sit down at an open spot at a table surrounded by these fishermen, my on-the-water idols.

The feeling of being awestruck quickly left, as each and every pro that I interacted with was so genuine, down to earth and just a plain outdoorsman like myself. I was amazed at how easy it was just to talk to these guys, just like talking to my boat buddy on any given Saturday morning. The meal was great, and I quickly found out who I’d be riding with the next morning, on the opening day at Kentucky Lake.

Jonathon VanDam on Day 1 at the 2018 Berkley Bassmaster Elite at Kentucky Lake presented by Abu Garcia

For the first morning of competition, I drew Jonathon VanDam. We quickly exchanged pleasantries and made a plan for early the next morning. Upon arrival, I found JVD in line, awaiting his turn at the boat ramp. Once we got on the water, I began to ponder what this day may bring. What “secret” fishing techniques or baits that I could learn from him?

Once out on the water, it began to rain. Jonathon quickly discovered that he had forgotten his rain gear. He was soaked but took it in stride. We went through multiple rain showers, and each time JVD would state, “Man, what a day to forget your rain gear” and shrug his shoulders and keep on fishing. For nine hours he fished. Wet, dry and, I’m sure, a bit frustrated. JVD ended the day with a disappointing catch. In my opinion, it was not a good day on the water for Jonathon. These nine hours in a boat, with a pro, I learned a tremendous amount of information. I will get to that shortly.

Drew Benton on Day 2 of the 2018 Berkley Bassmaster Elite at Kentucky Lake presented by Abu Garcia

On the second day, my angler to Marshal was Drew Benton. Drew was an angler that I didn’t know much about, so I studied him overnight to find out his story. Just as the first day went, Drew and I came up with a game plan for meeting the next day, and it went much like the first day. Upon his arrival, I met up with him and promptly got into the boat as he launched.

The second day of competition was a true soaker. Out of the nine hours of being on the water, I think it must have rained at least seven of them. Much like JVD, Drew would mention the rain from time to time, but I never sensed frustration. Drew did have his rain gear. The rain never affected his approach to the day, never affected his concentration. On this day, Drew would land a nice bag of fish, pushing the 18-pound mark which put him 21st in the field. Again, I learned a large amount of information from being in a boat with a professional angler.

In closing, I would like to share a glimpse of what it meant to me to be a Bassmaster Marshal. This program is amazing. It brings people together to share a day of what we are passionate about: the sport of fishing. The things I learned in a boat were nothing that I could have imagined. There were no magical lures, no magical techniques, no secret of how to fish better than anyone else that was on the water that day.

What I did learn on the water in those two days I will take with me forever. I learned what it was like to be truly patient. I learned that even though things may not be going your way a certain day, that the day is still magical nonetheless – a big bite is just a cast away. I learned that maintaining your composure and being very even tempered will allow you to keep your focus on what is important. I learned that being persistent and being 100 percent aware of your surroundings and what is going on in those surroundings, will allow you to learn from others or the situation.

You see, during my experience as a Bassmaster Marshal, it didn’t matter if an angler was having a dreadful day on the water, or if he was having a very productive day. It didn’t matter if it waw raining, or if it was dry. It didn’t matter if they were catching a fish every few minutes or having a lull in the bite for hours.  These guys taught me that controling your emotions plays a central part of how you live to succeed.

The lows never seemed low, the highs never seemed high, just a steadiness from both anglers and a razor sharp focus on everything they could control. Not only will I take this lesson with me in the boat every time I get on the water, but I have started to infuse this into my everyday life. Wouldn’t it be a great concept for all? These guys truly are professional in every sense of the word.

Thank you B.A.S.S. for this opportunity of a lifetime. I would recommend this program to anyone. It was an amazing experience. Your organization should be proud of how it is being run, should be proud of its athletes that compete, and should be proud of the overall fellowship that the entire organization portrays. 

Steven Thomas