Service yard saviors: Joby Smith

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Craig Lamb
Joby Smith adjusts a trolling motor at the Toyota Bassmaster Elite at Lake Lanier.

Ask service technician Joby Smith about his most important tool of the trade and the answer will surprise you. It is not a hammer, pair of pliers or screwdriver. A cell phone is his most prized gadget.

That makes sense when you spend most of the year away from home. “Family is important, said Smith. “I phone home a lot to keep in touch.”

Smith is among the dozen or so factory trained service technicians that travel to the Bassmaster Elite Series. From the first event in February through the finale in September, these unsung heroes are always on call to lend a helping hand to the pros. 

Just like the pros, they are on the road for weeks at the time, checking in and out of hotels, eating at odd hours and even missing out on holidays. 

“Even on Valentine’s Day,” added Smith, who calls Milaca, Minn., home. “I’ve got to phone home and check in, order the flowers.” 

Smith works for Johnson Outdoors, whose brands include Humminbird and Minn Kota. Those are broad product categories that include fishfinders, trolling motors, battery chargers and the Minn Kota Talon shallow water anchor.

Smith services them all. He is also quick to lend a helping hand to his peers, even those who represent competing brands. Doing so is an unwritten code of honor shared by what he calls his brothers and sisters on the road.

Just don’t ask to borrow his most important tool of them all. Here is a snapshot of this service yard savior.

How many days of the year do you travel?

I am on the road 185 days a year, or about half of it. That involves at least 25 tournaments all over the country.

How do you describe your job?

My job is to make sure everyone is good to go, that our products are the most up to date and that our guys can be competitive on the water.

What does an average day look like?

Busy. We carry everything needed to service, update and repair Humminbird electronics, Minn Kota trolling motors, chargers and the Talon shallow water anchors.

When does your day begin?

My day usually starts around 4:30 when I go to the tournament takeoff. We tend to any needs there and then go on stand by until the weigh in. After that it varies, sometimes way after dark. When some people are thinking about going to bed we still might be at work. 

That’s a lot of brands with varying parts. What do you bring?

Everything. We are like a rolling dealership. We carry it all and then some more, just in case. 

Just in case of what?

Sometimes the repairs vary by location. We stock accordingly for the lake. For shallow lakes we expect to repair more trolling motor lower units, props, parts that can be damaged in those conditions. 

And your most unusual repair was?

Replacing an entire trolling motor shaft, lower unit and all of it.  A pro was backing his boat into the water. The co-angler inside the boat got a little nervous and put the trolling motor down too soon. It got hung in the trailer frame and broke everything as the pro was pulling out of the water.

Beside your cellphone what is you most important tool?

My computer. We use it to order parts and download software to keep electronics updated. 

Your favorite breakfast place is what and where?

Waffle House. They are just so consistent. And we don’t have a lot of that on the road.

Do you have any road quirks?

We have to get up really early in the morning. I set up my toothbrush and my toothpaste, line up everything on the bathroom counter. I lay everything out to wear the night before. Whatever I’m going to wear the next day: pants, shirt, socks, jacket, al of it, so I can just roll out of bed, take a shower, get dressed and go to work.

What do you like the most about your job?

I love the people. These service guys are like having family on the road. No matter what you need they offer to help, no questions asked, and they’d do it anytime, anywhere.