by Layne Boudreaux
I’ve followed the Bassmaster Elite Series tour for some time now, but it’s only been the last few years where I have become involved with the Bassmaster Marshal program. I started out watching the takeoff on Toledo Bend in 2012. I watched as each name was called and with a wave they were off. I tried to follow some of them around, but found it to be difficult to find my favorites. I also felt that I was imposing on their area and didn’t want to disturb them.
From there I was able to see them take off again on the Sabine River in 2013. I quickly realized with the long runs most were making that I wouldn’t be able to follow, and I wasn’t able to really see their techniques or share in their victories and defeats. That’s when I decided, if given the opportunity, I was going to join the Marshal program. I wasn’t sure how it all worked, but I was excited to give it a try.
That opportunity came much faster than expected. They returned to Toledo Bend in 2014, and I jumped at the chance to sign up. It was great to see so many of these guys that I looked up to. I soon found out a random draw was used to pair you with your angler. I couldn’t believe my luck when my name was called to pair with the legendary Mr. Rick Clunn. Wow! I was awestruck. It was great day on the water. It was interesting to see how focused he was. He was able to narrow an area down to only a few productive spots and quickly capitalized. He crushed a 22-pound bag and was sitting in sixth place after Day 1.
On the Day 2 I drew a “local angler” Dennis Tietje. Again I had a great day on the water. TJ fished with such heart. He wanted to do so well in front of the home crowd but just couldn’t seem to catch a break. I felt his pain that day. I saw his disappointment as we returned to the dock and his wife Trudy was standing at the end anticipating his arrival. You could read it in her face when she saw him that she knew it didn’t go well. It is a side of fishing most rarely get to see, and I was sharing in that experience. From that day, I have followed TJ, and we remain acquaintances.
I knew I wanted to continue to be a part of the Marshal experience. As luck would have it they returned to the Sabine River 2015, and again I quickly signed up. My good fortune continued to hold out as my first draw was none other than Mr. Kevin VanDam. Really ... are you serious? KVD! I couldn’t believe the text before my eyes. We met the next morning and prepared for takeoff with a fog delay and a long run. The fog delay was great for me (not so much for him). We floated around, and I was able to listen to all the “dock talk.” With the lifting of the fog we were off. Kevin pulled up on is first spot and with his second cast boated a nice one. Unfortunately, that was his only decent fish, but what a great time. To see how he worked the areas so quickly covering water with such accuracy and speed. He could fire his lure between two cypress knees 30 or so feet away with little or no effort. It is instances like that which continue to bring me back time and time again. The skills that these guys have inspire me to sharpen my own techniques.
The next day I spent running around with Brandon Palaniuk. It was like hanging out with a fishing buddy. He is a really good guy. By this time I’m hooked on Marshaling. I ended that week with TJ. It was a great week.
I now had some experience and would continue on Toledo Bend 2016. I was paired with three more greats, David Walker, Tommy Biffle and Bill Lowen. The highlight of that weekend was watching Tommy flip his signature Biffle Bug to the tune of 21 pounds. This included a 7-pound kicker to close out the day. He finished that week in ninth place.
Once again the opportunity to Marshal presented itself with Toledo Bend 2017. This time my draw was a little different with some of the new guys on the Elite tour. I was paired with Justin Lucas, Robbie Latuso and Mark Daniels Jr. It may not have been the big names, but it was certainly a great time. I was fortunate enough to be selected to Marshal on Championship Sunday and was paired with Matt Lee. This was his first Elite Championship Sunday, and it was a good day even though the fish didn’t cooperate.
All of these are memories that I will never forget. Through these experiences I have learned to push myself out of my comfort zone. I’m no longer scared to try new techniques or fish unfamiliar waters. It has definitely improved my fishing, and I relish the opportunity to continue learning from the best in the business. Not only the pros, but those behind the scenes make these experiences ones I will never forget, and I look forward to the Sabine River 2018.