Making do: An open letter to all college anglers

“Reach out and touch…”

Dateline: Lake of the Ozarks, MIZ

In case you don’t know, I’m the old bald fat guy who stood in line at registration and asked all of you what school you went to and what your major was, I made you laugh some, you made me think some.

Here’s what you made me thinked.

We may not be screwed after all.

Once again the “experts” and “pundits” have got it wrong, they follow the shouts and the placards, they need though to stand where I stand and listen to the laughs and conversations, the whispers and the wisdom.

We stuck 230 some college kids from all over the Midwest in a small stuffy hotel banquet room and something, to me, magical happened…everyone mattered.

Every tall, short, skinny, fat, long hair, crew cut, smelly, not too smelly, almost good smelly, every watercolor of human being and the only thing that mattered was the camaraderie of fishing and competition.

Hey you out there inside the beltway…poll for that.

“…somebody's hand…”

I thinked this too.

We need to stop shaking the hand of politicos, we need to spend more time shaking each others hands.

More talking, less yelling.

More listening.

To be honest I can’t remember where you told me you where from, we have a bunch of states here, can’t remember what school you said you were from, got a bunch of them too, I do remember though what you told me you want to do with your life once your life becomes all you.

And here begins the Open Letter…take what we before you tried to do and succeed where we failed.

Be the kind in man.

I know you can do it, I saw you do it in the banquet room, it is possible, graduate with a degree in whatever but make your major in life…kindness. 

Believe it or not it’s not what you take from life that matters, it’s what you give that makes all the difference.

At the pearly gates St. Peter won’t ask if you have a gold credit card, he will though want to know if you have a heart of gold.

On earth everything has a price.

God don’t carry a wallet.

Remember that.

“…make this world a better place…” 

"Always be a little kinder than necessary."

James M. Barrie

I thinked this too.

Failure is just another chance, unless you make it a big deal.

You are going to get hurt in life just as sure as you will be skunked out on the water in competition.

I have seen KVD zero in a tourney, trust me he’s not happy about it, but he’s not crushed about it either.

Only life and death is life and death. 

You will one day not get the raise you deserve, you will one day work for a boss dumber than you, you will one day get jacked on the price of a car, you will one day get snookered on a mortgage, you will one day make the mistake of taking a debit card to Las Vegas, or buy a keg when a six pack will do…welcome to being human.

Trust me I have met some of those weird Mensa dudes at a card table and bluffed every one of them out of their allowance nickels.  And know this, I spelled Mensa…Menza…until the WORD software fixed it.

There you go.

In everything you do, it comes down to you.

Think not of blame, think though of lesson.

Wisdom is simply this, listen more to your soul than your hormones.  That’s an absolute fact, you get wiser as you get older mainly because we forget to take our daily hormone replacement meds.

If the rage of hormones came on late in life rather than when we are young, they would certainly be fewer of us…but they’d be a whole bunch wiser. 

I wish you be young, pimply and wise.

 “…if you can…” 

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

 Theodore Roosevelt

I thinked this too.

Make do.

Making do is a used to be said old school word, it’s not about giving up, not at all, it’s about knowing that you don’t need everything you don’t got.

Turn off the Kardashians and all those crazy housewives.  Trust me they are modern day cartoons that we don’t have to draw anymore.

I’m sorry, but you won’t get everything you want, life is in fact a 10-pound bass.

The lunkers are there, landing them is a whole other thing.

There is no most interesting man in the world because if in fact there was a most interesting man in the world it would probably be a woman.  Trust me on that one.

I’ve been married to one for 43 years…that I’ll drink a beer to.

Shoot for the stars, but know this, anywhere in the universe will make do.

“…reach out and touch…” 

“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.’

 Audrey Hepburn

I thinked this too.

Expect to do the unexpected.

Make do for others, as they would make do for you.

Ask for nothing in return.

I was not always the bald fat sometimes smelly guy, I was once the skinny long haired sometimes smelly guy.

I was also the kid who went to school in designer clothes.

All my back to high school clothes came from the designer minds of Mr. Sears and Mr. Roebucks.

My clothes had the same name tags as refrigerators and lawn mowers.

I am the son and grandson of working stiffs, dad sold appliances at Sears, mother was the cafeteria lady.  Dad worked on commission and bought my school clothes on his lunch when he walked by the sale table in the boys department. 

My wardrobe I saw when I opened the shopping bag at home.

It’s where I learned how to make do but it didn’t make it easy.

The locker room was the worst, calling me “Hey Roebucks,” was the nicest thing said, one day I went in the art room, found a scissors and cut the tag out of a shirt, also cut by mistake cut a hole in the shirt.

Took a frying pan to the head when I got home that day.

Yeah, okay, I’m sensitive to all that even 40 some years later, and all that came back to me in line when I met these two kids:  CJ Hatton and Anthony Gilmore.

Me:  “Where you from.”

Them:  “Schoolcraft College in Michigan.”

Me:  “Really, where’s your school jersey.”

Them:  “Don’t have none, can’t afford it.”

And with that, standing in line all I heard was this, “Hey Mr. Roebuck…”

“…somebody's hand…”

“Life is not always a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes, playing a poor hand well.”

― Jack London

I thinked this too.

Not again.

I shook CJ’s and Anthony’s hand, talked with them a bit, then had to walk away.

It is one thing to write about make do, it is a whole other thing to come face to face with it.

CJ and Anthony are not alone out here, many have the same story, most if not all though have jerseys.

Anthony is 21, pays cash for all this fishing stuff through the part time job he has after school doing landscaping, in school he majors in Business-something.  Mom and Dad help pay for college, dad is in sales, but can’t come up with the extra bread for fishing. 

CJ is 19 is taking welding in school, works in the welding shop to get fishing money, mom and dad do what they can for college bills, dad is an iron worker in a factory.

You can tell both boys come from good stock, everything was please and thank you, yes sir no sir.

As a team they fish out of Anthony’s 15 year old Triton his father bought in 2002.  For this tourney they are driving dad’s truck because Anthony’s truck, “…the drive shaft fell out after the last tournament and I can’t get it fixed yet.” 

Between them they have “about $1500 dollars that we won when we tied for 1st place up in a college tournament in New York.” 

They figure they will spend $250 in gas for the boat, $150 in gas for the truck and $50 a day sharing a room at the Days Inn, “which is great to have the money for, we normally just sleep in the truck bed.”

To me though these numbers are much more important:  Anthony 2.8 GPA, CJ 3.2 GPA.

I asked this:  “Is your boat wrapped.”

“Only with bumps, bruises and scratches.” 

“Equipment wise, do you have a Power-Pole.”

“Nope, we use our hands, if we need to stick in one place one of us just uses our hands to hang onto a tree branch or dock, works fine.”

Both have known each other since they were 10 or so, “we both were in the Michigan Bass club as kids, that’s where we met.” 

“So why no jerseys.” 

“We figure the bass don’t know that so we used the money instead to buy bait, bait we need to fish, jerseys we don’t.”

“Hey Mr. Roebucks….”

“…make this world a better place…”

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”


I thinked this too

Old wounds never die.

“Hey Mr. Roebucks…”

In any way of measurement I have overcome the Sears Roebuck label of my high school shirts and pants.

Have on the shelf at home several Emmy’s and a World Medal for Investigative Journalism.

But still wear a tattoo of being different, to this day I see the funny looks I get for the way I wear my hair and dress and it still hurts only lacks the towel snapping that occurred in the school locker room.

So yeah, I’ve got a button to push…and it got pushed.

Pushed enough that I lost sleep over it, over this Anthony and CJ.

Next day I invited them to dinner, anything they wanted which turned out to be cheeseburgers and fries, and I paid.

The more they talked the more I was brought back to my neighborhood.

The more they talked the more I was brought back to my working stiff roots.

The more they talked the more high school came back.

“Tell me dudes, do you know what pay it forward means.’



“Do you believe in it.”



“I believe that the reason we are all here is to give more than we take, to give back as much as we take from.  You dig that.”

“Yes Sir.”

“Yes Sir.”`

“I’ll buy dinner.”

“Oh thank you so much, thank you so much.”

To all you college BASS fishing dudes this open letter isn’t about your college, isn’t about your fish, it’s about you and what you will do in life.

Do in life what’s right, it’s simple because I know that deep down inside all of us know what’s right.

What’s right is helping each other, what’s right is love not hate, what’s right is talking not shouting.

Love wins, snapping each other with towels or calling each other names wil not, NOT, win in the end.

It can’t.


And with that I slid a sheet of paper across the table to Anthony and CJ, on it was a name…Brad Raymond…President…Gemini Sport Marketing…and his phone number.

“What’s this…”

“He’s a friend of mine, known him for years…” 

Both just look at me.

“Call him, he’s waiting for your call…”

“Why, what do we have to call him for…”

“Brad needs to know what size jerseys you wear…I bought you both one of them today…I don’t want you taking to that stage without a jersey on.  This one is on me.”

Give more than you take young college bass fishing dudes.

“I only ask of you two one thing in exchange for the jersey…”

“What, wow, what…” 

“That sometime, somewhere, I don’t care when or what you do, just remember this and pay it forward, pay it forward, please.”

Make do for others young college dudes. 

And when you do the sound of snapping towels goes silent.

I thinked that too.

“…if you can.”

Reach Out And Touch Someone

Diana Ross


"Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind."

-Henry James