My name is Mike Gilbert and I’m a Bassmaster Elite Series Marshal. Those were the introduction instructions I was given as we began an interview backstage of the final weigh-in at Texas Fest on Lake Fork this year. The statement is 100 percent true, but I felt compelled to extend the conversation just a little.
I have been a part of the Marshal program from the very beginning on Lake Amistad in 2009. I have been a judge for the Toyota Texas Bass Classic/Bassmaster Texas Fest for 11 of the 13 years of its existence. That translates to more than 50 opportunities to ride with top-level professional anglers competing at the highest level of their chosen profession.
The stories I could share are endless and would include just about anyone/everyone you may feel is the best in the business. I want to share the story of my Championship Monday ride with Chad Pipkins this year.
Chad had great Days 1 and 2 at Lake Fork, bringing in more than 30 pounds each day. He was leading the tournament going into Day 3. But Chad could only manage 5 pounds and change for the day and still made the cut for Day 4 in the 7th position out of 10.
I checked with his Day 3 judge to get an idea of what I was in for after such a sharp decline and was pleased to hear that Chad had a great day on the water. High energy, positive outlook and an all day belief that it was going to happen at any time was the report I got and it made my look forward to my Day 4 draw.
Day 4 begins and everything I heard about Chad was true. He was excited to get on the water. He was absolutely certain the day was going to be a great experience. He had the right attitude, saying that two 30-pound bags and a 5-pound bag were better than 3 20-pound bags. I was instantly infected by his positive energy and was looking forward to the day with a professional that truly appreciates what he has the chance to do each day -- go fishing!
The day was everything he willed it to be. He caught an 8-pounder early in the morning that turned out to be big fish of the day. He continued to work the plan he developed and caught back-to-back 4-6s. He ended the day with 22-6 and the same optimism he had when the day began.
Time flew by and I learned lessons about attitude, boat positioning, lure presentations and the importance of timing and returning to areas you believe in over and over again. It was a first-class learning experience for an old 38-year educator in Texas Public Schools.
Finally, I want to put in a plug for signing up and being a Marshal for another reason. I’ve had a “life verse” since way before that term was used. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” In other words, if you want to be the best you can be at anything, put yourself in the position of being around the best at whatever you are trying to do.
I have the desire to be a better angler. I can think of no better place to add to my knowledge than in the boat with those that have done the work, taken the risk and made the commitment to earn a living as a professional angler. I’ve learned a great deal over the past 13 years and the 2019 Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest was certainly no exception to that learning process. Do yourself a favor and spend some time around these young men. They have a lot to offer and they will appreciate your support as well.
Editor's note: You can sign up to be a Marshal here.