Volunteer's dream comes true

ORANGE, Texas —There is more to Russell Bottley’s omnipresent smile than meets the eye. As lead liaison between the Greater Orange Chamber of Commerce and B.A.S.S., the Orange native relishes his role, being able to do what he loves the most. 

“I love volunteering for my community and I love B.A.S.S.,” Bottley said.  

So do more than 100 volunteers, many of whom work from before sunup until after sunset, and for weeks before B.A.S.S. comes to town. Why so many volunteers? The reason is a Bassmaster Elite Series event here is more than a tournament. Such is the case at the 2021 Dovetail Games Bassmaster Elite at Sabine River sponsored by Bassmaster Fishing 2022 — the official video game of B.A.S.S. 

This event, like others since B.A.S.S. first visited in 2013, includes a carnival with rides and food vendors, a kid’s fish tank, live entertainment and a car show. Country music artist Neal McCoy headlines a concert on Saturday evening. The venue is the City of Orange Boat Ramp and surrounding festival grounds, including a new addition. That is the Riverside Pavilion, built to attract even more events to the area. 

Wearing a smile on his face and a handie talkie on his belt, you’ll find Bottley anywhere there is a need to connect the volunteers with a need of B.A.S.S.

“I’m on the B.A.S.S. committee for the chamber, and we all have different roles,” he said. “Mine is being the link between us and B.A.S.S.”

Bottley, 51, has a deep connection with B.A.S.S., as indicated by his comment. A member of the Fishin’ Tradition Bass Club in nearby Jasper, he is a longtime tournament junkie. 

“I grew up watching The Bassmasters on TNN (The Nashville Network), with Ray Scott and my favorite of all time on the show, Bob Cobb; I just loved his narrations,” Bottley said.

There is more to Bottley’s constant smile than his love for serving the community and affinity for B.A.S.S. Bottley is a cancer survivor. In 2010, he was diagnosed with Lymphoma Stage 4, given a 20 percent chance of survival.

“I got away from fishing because I didn’t know what the future would hold for me,” Bottley said.

The smile returned in 2011 after a successful stem cell transplant, and with it, a renewed outlook about life.

“I decided that I would not sit on my laurels, that I’ve got to do more,” he said. “I started volunteering, felt like I had something left in me.”

He also started fishing again.

“A friend told me that I needed to get back to fishing, which I did,” Bottley said. “That put even more about what I wanted to do into perspective.”

At the time, he wouldn’t know what that would be. Call what happened next divine intervention. Bottley was approached by Jay Trahan, director of economic development for the City of Orange, about working with him and other civic leaders on an Elite Series event.

“It was a dream come true; I mean who would have ever thought B.A.S.S. would come to my home town, and at the Elite level?”