Through the eyes of an Elite Series Marshal

I was really excited when I found out that the Bassmaster Elite Series was coming to La Crosse, Wis., for the Mississippi River Rumble. As soon as I saw the 2012 Elite schedule, I told my parents that the only thing I wanted for Christmas was the opportunity to be an Elite Series Marshal for the event. I didn’t care if I got anything else; being a Marshal was enough.

They agreed that I could go; and on opening day of registration, they helped make sure my Christmas wish came true. It took a few extra weeks to get my information packet, and I was checking the mailbox every day. It finally came, and I was so excited even though the event was still months away.

As June approached, the idea that the Elites were coming to Wisconsin and I was going to be able to ride with them began to really sink in. It really hit me when I showed up Monday to fish, and all the anglers’ trailers were in the launch parking lot, and I saw the guys on the water. At that point, I knew that my dream was going to come true – the Elites were here!

I really had no idea what to expect; I had only heard that it was a great program and that everyone I talked to that had done it said it was a great experience.

We showed up early for the Marshal briefing; I needed to stretch my legs so I walked out to the lobby and there's Skeet Reese and Russ Lane and a few other pros chatting right there. Most people would have said hi or something but I was so excited that I just walked right by and thought to myself, “Wow that was really Skeet and Russ!”

On Day One of the event, I was paired with Russell Parrish. I met him down at the ramp, and we sat out on the river and talked fishing until take-off. I was living my dream; I was in the boat with an Elite pro just chatting. When he got to fishing, it showed me how good these guys really are. I have almost zero experience on the river but I was looking at the bank he was fishing and I thought I would be flipping this if I were fishing. As the day progressed, I realized that if I had been doing that I would have been fishing under the fish and likely not catch much. Overall, I really enjoyed my day with Russell.

Austin HopfenspergerOn Day Two, I was paired with Takahiro Omori. I was really excited because I’ve been a fan of his since he won the 2004 Bassmaster Classic in the last five minutes of competition. I met up with him Friday morning, and he asked me if I’d be OK with driving his boat when he dropped me in at the launch. I said sure!

So, here I am living my dream. I must have been the youngest kid who was a Marshal, and I'm driving a pro’s boat. I just did what I'd done a hundred times before and found an open spot in the mass of Elite anglers’ boats and waited for him. I had a blast with Takahiro; he was throwing a frog most of the day, and that is by far my favorite way to catch fish. He had some awesome strikes.

On Day Three, I was paired with Matt Reed; he was throwing a frog, too. So, of course, I had a good day again. Matt and I talked about where we fish and about our home lakes; I really enjoyed his stories since his home lake is Falcon. He said an 8-pounder is an okay fish.

One thing that was the same across all three days was the boat ride; when you get out of the no wake zone, you are off to the races and you better hang on. I looked over at the GPS a couple times this week, and it said we were going 75 mph. It’s a nice, fast ride.

Overall I enjoyed the experience and would recommend it to anyone who is thinking about doing it. It doesn't matter if it's on your home lake or not; it is a blast to watch these guys fish. If you go, listen, learn, ask questions and enjoy it. I know I did!

I would like to thank Trip Weldon, Dave Mercer, Chuck Harbin and Ryan Watkins for taking such an interest in my story and making my week here even better.