I hate excuses, especially fishing excuses.
They are the worst. When you've covered as many bass tournaments as I have, you come to realize there are two certainties in bass fishing life: One, everybody who doesn't win has an excuse, and two, if they don't have an excuse they are looking for one.
So I'll spare all the excuses as to why I didn't win the Co-Angler division of this Elite Series event. Plain and simple, I got beat like a borrowed mule. The fishing skills I had at one time are currently as lost as a baseball in high grass.
I knew that going in. So believe me when I say 'winning wasn't the reason I was there.' As a matter of fact, of all the 208 anglers (pros and co-anglers) in this event, I can say with confidence, none were less concerned about catching a fish than I.
My reasoning for doing this goes much deeper.
As stated earlier, I've been doing this a long time, so long that my memory bank is full of moments from past tournaments, some of which motivated me to want to fish when I should have been working.
As an example, here's a short list:
I remember when Rick Clunn shared the stage with Vice-President George Bush and Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton in 1984 at Pine Bluff, Ark.
I remember Jack Chancellor.
I remember "Match Fishing," the first made-for-television bass tournament. I remember George Cochran "taking control of the boat" and winning.
I remember Ken Cook without grey hair.
I remember when Ricky Green held the record for the most consecutive Classic appearances and was referred to as "Mr. Consistency."
I remember Denny Brauer when he wasn't so grumpy. (Sorry, Denny I couldn't resist a stab at my favorite curmudgeon).
I remember Paul Elias when he looked like a booger bear, with a beard so long he could have played back up for ZZ Top.
I remember when Gary Klein was the young rebel on tour, long before Michael Iaconelli or Skeet Reese or Gerald Swindle.
I remember Kevin VanDam bursting on the scene, wearing a big, trucker-style cap that stood so high on his head he looked like a beanpole wearing a watermelon.
I remember covering and observing for Bryan Kerchal in the Federation National Championship on the Arkansas River. I remember him telling me months later at High Rock Lake, that he was catching them. I remember thinking there's no way a Federation angler will ever win. I remember being happy he proved me wrong, and choking back tears when he died.
I remember Timmy Horton living on an ice chest full of hamburgers his rookie season. He bought them cheap and carried them with him on the tournament trail. They made him hungry enough to win the Angler of the Year title.
My memory bank is full with recollections of individual anglers. But as I've covered the Elite Series events this season, the most compelling memory of all has centered on something entirely different.
I remember the 1991 Classic in Baltimore. A hurricane that hit somewhere north or south of there canceled one of the two practice days (There used to be two practice days). With nothing else to do, I remember sitting in a room with outdoor writers and anglers and dreaming of a day when bass tournaments would get live television coverage, big crowds, hundreds of thousands of dollars in payouts, no-entry fee tournaments and many of the things that make up what the Elite Series is today. I remember those things being defined as far-fetched dreams.
I'm often amazed at how far we've come, especially in the last few years. And in a few more years, when I think about all those memories and all the ones that will take place between now and then, I want to look back and say, "I not only covered those events, I actually fished in one as a co-angler."
By that time, I will have created a wonderful list of excuses to mask the fact, that from a fishing perspective, I stumbled around this event like a drunk in a pumpkin patch.