The newest high-profile member of the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society might be its fastest ever.
Chone (pronounced "Shawn") Figgins used that speed to steal 52 bases last year for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. It also enabled him to play a variety of positions including second base, centerfield and third base. That same speed and versatility is being applied to bass fishing these days during baseball's off-season.
"I'm a new BASS member, absolutely," Figgins said. "I've fished all my life. I just started really getting into bass fishing about six or seven years ago.
"I fished all through high school when I had a chance. There were a lot of ponds around and a buddy and I would ride our bikes to them. That's how I really got started."
After obtaining his membership, Figgins was most excited that he would receive the 11 annual issues of Bassmaster Magazine- an important convenience for someone as busy as Figgins.
"I read every edition cover-to-cover," Figgins said. "I really anticipate every issue coming in the mail. I feel like I have learned a ton every time I read it."
After an All-American season at Brandon High School in Florida, Figgins was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in 1997 and made his major league debut for the Angels in 2002. In 2005, he stole a major league high 62 bases, which also set an Angels team record.
The 5-foot-7 speedster was rewarded with a three-year, $10.5-million deal in 2006. He responded this past year by stealing 52 bases and hitting .267 while mostly batting lead-off and patrolling centerfield.
Lately, during some rare downtime, Figgins has been fishing numerous bass waters around his home in Brandon.
"I do a lot of fishing during the off-season," he said. "I bought a place that has a lake and I fish on it a lot. I bought a bass boat two years ago and I fish as much as possible.
"I don't get to fish during the season because in California the lakes are too far to drive to. It takes three hours to get there."
Figgins is definitely bass-crazy. Consider:
Sports Illustrated once asked him to complete this sentence: "If I weren't playing baseball, I'd..."
His reply: "be a bass fisherman. I'm from Florida, and I love to fish. In the off-season the fish aren't spawning — so it's harder. If I were out there all summer, I'd be really good."
MLB.com asked: "What is your earliest Christmas memory?"
His reply: "My dad bought me my first fishing pole. It was a bass-fishing pole, and we went outside and we set up a bucket. We spent a long time just casting into that bucket. I was about five or six. I don't have that pole anymore, but that memory stands out. I love to fish, and I really wanted that fishing pole.
MLB.com: "Was there any toy/gift that you always wanted but didn't get?"
Figgins: "You know, I can honestly say there wasn't a present that I wanted and didn't get. That fishing pole was something that I really wanted, and I got it. It was an expensive fishing pole, too. That was the only thing I cared about. I wanted one of those so bad. I used to watch fishing shows on television, and I wanted to be one of those guys. My dad got it, though, and hid it behind the TV until Christmas."
TIM HORTON UPDATE.
It seems that Tim Hortons, a chain of 2,800 coffee and doughnut shops in Canada and the U.S., has had a change of heart since Inside BASS first reported that they were threatening legal action against Alabama Bassmaster Elite Series pro Tim Horton over the use of his name on fishing-related products.
Rachel Douglas, director of public affairs for the restaurant chain, told the North Alabama Times Daily recently that the angler can attach his name to any type of products except foods that are sold by the company.
"He's free to continue selling his lures, DVDs and other products," Douglas said. "We're not in competition with him on those items. But we will continue to oppose any effort by him to trademark his No. 1 Tim Horton logo, because we already own the Tim Hortons trademark. But he can certainly continue to use his name on his products."
It appears Horton won't have to change his name to "The Angler Formerly Known as Tim Horton" after all.
Local anglers fishing the 2007 Bassmaster Weekend Series operated by American Bass Anglers stand to win some nice bonuses, thanks to the new contingency programs sponsored by Mercury Marine and MotorGuide. More than $375,000 in extra cash will be available in 2007.
Mercury will award a $1,000 bonus to the winning angler in each regular-season and division-championship tournament, provided the winner's boat is equipped with a 2005-2007 Mercury outboard. MotorGuide will award a $500 bonus to the winning angler if his or her boat is equipped with a 2004-2007 MotorGuide trolling motor.
"Mercury would like to recognize and acknowledge the grass-roots anglers," said Michelle Kilburn, manager of freshwater tournaments and events. "This is the first time we have offered such a program. We hope this helps provide evidence of Mercury's continued support for competitive angling, our loyal customers and help attract new customers."
Look for Preston Clark to again promote the Beef O' Brady's restaurant chain with his wrapped boat during the 2007 Bassmaster Elite Series. Clark said he will run the same wrap for the next three years.
The personable Florida pro, who burst onto the BASS scene with two record-setting performances in 2006, received a substantial raise from his biggest sponsor.
"I'm very happy," Clark said. "They really stepped up to the plate. In addition, Triton and Mercury really stepped up big. Everybody's happy."
DID YOU KNOW?
The 2007 Bassmaster Classic Feb. 23-25 in Birmingham, Ala., will offer a total prize purse of $1.2 million and a winner's prize of $500,000.
IF I HADN'T BECOME A BASS PRO...
Before building a career as one of the top active female anglers, Pam Martin-Wells held a variety of jobs. "I have done it all," said the Mercury Marine Women's Bassmaster Tour presented by Triton Boats pro from Georgia said. "I worked for a newspaper in the darkroom. I was a paint contractor for a while. Actually, Steven [her husband] and I are residential contractors to this day. We build houses and docks. And, of course, I've guided for years."
THEY SAID IT.
"Right now we are at the beginning of a new era of bass fishing and more people are making a living at it. The Elite Series was a huge step. Having our own identity with wrapped trucks, boats and things like that was a huge breakthrough. There are a lot of guys that were really struggling a year ago that are so much better off today. They were the ones that complained and moaned about this new format until they went out there and actually tried to sell themselves." Three-time Bassmaster Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam.