For fishing fans who only watch the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro from arena seats or on ESPN2, it’s hard to fathom the behind-the-scenes work that goes into making the Super Bowl of Bass Fishing such a seamlessly smooth and enjoyable event. Volunteer workers and part-time contractors are integral to that success.
Among those volunteers, Tom Bolbot was one of everyone’s favorites. Bolbot, 59, passed away suddenly last week — shortly before he was supposed to go on a weekend fishing trip with other members of what I call The Chicago Crew. Since the summer of 2000, ESPN Radio show host Chauncey Niziol, along with Tom and his brother Joe, have helped B.A.S.S. Communications staffers set up, operate and tear down the bustling Classic Media Center. (In recent years, another Chicagoan, Linda Souza, joined the trio on their annual road trip from their hometown to wherever the Classic was being held.)
For a week each year, Tom Bolbot became a member of the B.A.S.S. family. His was a quiet demeanor and a clever, decidedly dry, sense of humor. Among numerous duties, he escorted Classic contenders from the weigh-in stage to the media interview rooms, making friends among the ranks of the pros as well as the media.
Friends who spent the rest of the year with him knew Bolbot as a selfless worker and effective volunteer leader. An Eagle Scout and Vigil Honor Member, Bolbot was a volunteer at Owasippe Scout Reservation in Westchester, Ill., for many years, and he was an avid hunter and angler.
“The outdoor world has had a tremendous loss,” said Niziol, a lifelong friend. “Tom never wanted to be the front guy — the guy in front of the camera or in front of the crowd. He just wanted to make sure everything was perfect behind the scenes.”
For those reasons and many more, Tom will be always remembered and sorely missed.
Donations may be made in his memory to the Owasippe Staff Association, OSA, P.O. Box 7097, Westchester, IL 60154, or at Owasippe.com.