Before this week, I had not had the opportunity to talk much with Maryland pro Bryan Schmitt.
But after interviewing him three straight days during the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Lake Champlain, I can honestly say he embodies everything I love about the sport of professional bass fishing.
He’s soft-spoken and polite despite being intensely competitive. He’s answered every question I’ve asked to the best of his ability, and he’s said “Yes sir” and “No sir” quite a bit — but not so much that it made me feel ancient.
He’s a true pro — and like some of the best pros to ever make a cast, he often acts like things are going so badly there’s no reason for him to ever make another one.
Let me be clear, I’m not saying he’s a liar.
In my mind, fishermen don’t really “lie.” They sandbag. They poormouth. They set you up to expect the worst while silently hoping for the best.
On Thursday, after catching a big mixed bag of largemouth and smallmouth, Schmitt insisted his largemouth bite had died.
Then after catching some more big largemouth on Friday, he insisted the same thing again — before busting another big bag on Saturday.
Now, he says he doesn’t believe he can catch any today.
What do you believe?
Through the years, I’ve come to have more confidence in the guys who take a measured approach to the remainder of a tournament than the ones who seem 100% positive they’re on the only spot in the lake where it can be won.
It’s kind of like when I was in high school.
I didn’t fear the loudmouth guy who strutted down the hall in fancy clothes talking about all the people he’d beaten up in his life. The one you really had to look out for was that quiet kid in the corner with stained blue jeans, a faded T-shirt and scrapes on four of his five knuckles.
How many times have you heard Alabama football coach Nick Saban act like the Kansas City Chiefs were coming to town the week his team was hosting Georgia Southern? His message was, “Yeah, we’re pretty good. But we still have to actually play the game.”
I think there’s a little bit of that in what Bryan Schmitt has said this week.
Probably some other stuff, too.
Has he been honest when he’s said he thought his hopes were fading every day? Or has he been running a playful game of poker with those of us at the media table just to throw other competitors off his scent?
We won’t know for sure until today’s weigh-in is over.
And make no mistake, there are some heavyweight contenders nipping at his heels who could take the blue trophy away from him, even if he is just poormouthing.
But one thing I know for sure before we start Championship Sunday is that Bryan Schmitt is everything a pro should be.
That, and if he tells you there are no fish left in your own farm pond, you should probably still go fishing anyway.