Scott Cooley: Observer journal

  • TV viewers take note: For the first time ever, ESPN2 will provide same-day coverage of a BASS event outside of the CITGO Bassmaster Classic. Coverage of the Bassmaster Memorial weigh-in will air Sunday, May 21, at 7 p.m. ET.

    Editor's note: Scott Cooley is observing in his first big-time fishing event. While most observers have little at stake, Cooley, who will be married in a few months, is counting his pennies. As an incentive for him to understand the ups and downs a Bassmaster angler goes through in a day's time, these stipulations have been given him: Every time his angler lands a keeper, he wins $50. Simple, huh? But here's the catch. Every time his angler loses a fish Cooley loses $100. Plus he gets a bonus of $500 if his angler wins the Purolater Big Bass or Busch Heavyweight awards. To top it off, each position in the angler's day-end standings is worth cash. If the angler is sitting in the 50th place position at the conclusion of the first day, it earns him an additional $30. From every place from there up, he gets another $30.

    Day Two: Peter Thliveros

    posted late on May 19:

    Before my journal begins, I want to take a moment and tell you about the angler I was observing on the second day.

    His name is Peter Thliveros. He's from Jacksonville, Fla. He's 46 years old. He has a wife and two sons. He's been a professional bass fisherman for 21 years.

    Known by most as good 'ole Peter T. A very funny and entertaining man he is. One of those jolly fellows with a bellowing laugh and a big heart. He could put on a Santa costume and Mrs. Clause would get in bed with him.

    Just to give you an idea of the day we had on the water, I need to provide you with a few words belted out by Pete before we even started the day. We had great time.

    "Yea, they changed the lake for tomorrow and Sunday. I think we're fishing on Brokeback Lake or something."

    "If I had to work with Marty Dashiell (producer of Bassmaster television) everyday, I would be on some heavy medication. I mean heavy."

    "I'm so far back in line to take off, I think someone is going to get on my spot (the funny thing about that is that everyone is on everyone's spot)."

    "Man, something took a big dump on the side of your boat right on your name."

    5:13 a.m. — Oops, I overslept. I have to be downstairs in the lobby in two minutes.

    I was exhausted from yesterday. Once my head hit the pillow last night I slept like a rock. I've got to be downstairs in two, one minute.

    5:17 a.m. — I drag my wearisome body from the elevator and meet the rest of the .com crew outside. Luckily, they are still waiting on valet parking to retrieve the vehicle so I'm not late.

    Note to self: Always call ahead for valet parking at the Hilton in Fort Worth, Texas. Retrieval time varies from 15 to 20 minutes.

    6:15 a.m. — Meet and greet with Peter T. We explain to him the situation and he is thrilled in an alarming way.

    6:25 a.m. — I'm sitting in the Tru Tungsten-wrapped boat watching Pete calmly prepare his rods and tackle for the day. He shouts the word "apple" at Kenyon Hill and they share a few laughs. It must have been an inside joke because I didn't get it.

    6:57 a.m. — We take off from the dock.

    6:59 a.m. — Pete and I arrive at our first fishing destination. Resident pier docks. T grabs a Zoom Z-Nail worm and slowly works it. A few tugs here and there while it's suspended with a 30-second lapse between casts.

    7:06 a.m. — He switches over to a jig and works the same dock over, the exact same way.

    Peter is a much more methodical fisherman than Hackney (I fished with him yesterday). He takes his time and makes sure everything is exact. T has probably dipped his line in the water 12 times by now; Hack would be on number 50.

    7:27 a.m. — He makes four cast with a swimming jig, one of them being a backlash. He immediately pulls out the crankbait.

    "Who says fish aren't smart," exclaims Pete.

    Wait a minute here. Let's not give them the edge first thing in the morning by acknowledging their mental acuteness. I'm beginning to wonder if this fun-loving guy is all that serious about fishing today. Does he know what on the line for him? For me?

    I shake off the uneasy vibes and we're on the move.

    7:40 a.m. — We pull in to a rocky area, which is what I was hoping to see. Peter pulls out the crankbait and starts slinging it over the rocks.

    This boat ride was the longest one I've had in my short tournament experience. The water was little choppier today with the wind, but not bad enough to make it a rough ride.

    I did, however, get the feeling of what our cameramen talk about when they are cruising across the water at 70-plus miles per hour.

    I tense up. I can feel a strain going down the back of my neck. It's as if every muscle in my body has constricted up as I'm hanging on to the "oh bleep handle" on the side of the boat. No seatbelt, this is the only thing keeping me in the boat.

    We hit a wave as we're coming down off another to produce kind of a swooping effect. The boat tilts to one side in mid air and I think we're going to flip. You couldn't pry my jaw open right now with a crowbar. I'm locked up.

    We didn't flip and probably never came close, but it was a scary moment for me.

    8:00 a.m. — The sun and the moon are sharing the morning sky. I don't know why, but yesterday Hackney told me the longer the moon stays out during the day, the worse the bite is.

    We hook up with a rockfish, probably a single-pounder with grass and slime all over him.

    8:08 a.m. — I ask my gracious host if I can use the restroom in the back of the boat.

    Pete says, "Help yourself, just don't wipe with the motor."

    I'm doubled over in laughter.

    8:15 a.m. — Not even a nibble since we started.

    "That's not right."

    What? Who? Huh? What's not right?

    "Nothing. That's exactly what's not right about this whole thing."

    Again, not what I wanted to hear from the man who's supposed to be providing me with a little financial support throughout the day.

    8:18 a.m. — "Alright, let's go to the place where I know some fish are," Pete tells me.

    This is the part of the fishing game plan that confuses me. If you've got a spot where you know where fish are or have caught fish in previous days, why not go there immediately and see how much of your limit you can catch. Then go to your potential areas and make a few passes there. I know it's a timing thing and stuff, but I don't get it.

    8:25 a.m. — After an hour and a half of absolutely nothing but disappointment, we saddle up next to a rock damn and I've got a good feeling about it. Not five minutes after being there and six casts into it, BAM! We've hit something nice.

    The jig enticed a sizeable three-pound bass to nab it. We've got our first bite of the day and it's definitely a keeper. $50 doesn't come any easier than that.

    8:48 a.m. — After talking with Mike Wurm a little bit (he and VanDam were fishing the dam too) and still throwing the jig, T's rod doubles over. We've hooked another.

    I peer over the edge of the boat to see a greenback mushrooming to the surface. Pete plops it right into my seat on the boat. That sucks because now my seat is all fishy and wet, but I've got 50 bucks to wipe it up with if I want.

    Two for two, up a Benjamin.

    Did I mention it was a two and a half-pound spotted bass? T said he didn't know there were spots in the lake that big.

    9:20 a.m. — Bathroom break number two. Peter teases me while I hang off the engine.

    "You know if I catch one while your peeing, we'll have to find a way to keep you peeing all day long."

    Fortunately for me, he didn't.

    9:43 a.m. — "That fish right there cost you some money." What did you say T?

    "It's like he wasn't even a bass the way he started running off with the bait, but he was."

    Okay, I can deal with that. Back to even money and it's not even ten o'clock. Actually, that could be a bad thing or a good thing.

    9:50 a.m. — I think we nailed a giant.

    "It's probably a catfish or a drum," Pete says.

    I'm saying back to him and the Heavens above, "Please be a bass, please be a bass."

    It surfaces for a second, rolls, and goes back down.

    I can't take it. This thing is huge! I keep asking Pete, "Is it going to stay on, is it? Do you have him?"

    Right then, T puts his large fingers in the mouth of the largest bigmouth I've ever seen pulled from a body of water.

    "That's going to measure," he says.

    Damn right that will measure, by ten inches or more. If this is the biggest bass of the day, as an observer I would win a new $45,000 Triton Boat equipped with a Mercury motor. Unfortunately, I'm not eligible for that prize but I will get an extra $500 from my comrade if it turns out to be the big boy of the day.

    This monster was caught on a 1/2-ounce Team Supreme Ultimate Rascal jig with a green pumpkin Zoom Pro Chunk trailer.

    I told Pete that was one of the coolest things I had ever seen to which he replied, "You should've been on this end of it."

    10:15 a.m. — Keeper number four comes into my life with 50 dollar signs in his eyes. It's another spotted bass. This dam we're on is damn good.

    "It's golden today, but yesterday it was just copper," T said.

    I'm back up to $100 and hopefully more with that lunker in the trunk. I'd say we've got close to 13 pounds already.

    "I'm going to do the fat man dance," mimicking Fat Albert, T sings, "hey, hey, hey, it's big Pete, I'm gonna sing a song for you."

    I'm dying in laughter again. His impression was pretty good and now, we are all having a good time.

    "I think you're good luck for me. I know this is a no entry fee tournament, but tell Bassmaster.com that I will pay them for you to be my observer at the next major."

    10:27 a.m. — Preston Clark swings by to say hello to the happy couple. Pete tells him where the best burgers on the lake are and arouses my hunger a bit.

    "If I catch that five-pounder we've been looking for, we'll go and have us a burger."

    It's almost lunchtime and that burger smothered in grilled onions and hot cheese sounds fantastic. I'm praying for a six-pounder.

    11:00 a.m. — No five-pounder to be caught so it's another turkey sandwich for lunch. I bought Pringles for chips today instead of Doritos, so my bag wouldn't fly out of the boat again.

    11:43 a.m. — The exact scenario that played out for Hack and I yesterday is possibly reoccurring, and it doesn't please me one bit.

    From about 11:30 to 1:30 the productive fishing slowed to a crawl.

    It's scorching hot out on the water now. HOT, HOT, HOT! I feel like my skin is melting. The inside of my legs got burnt yesterday and I can't seem to find a position that's out of the sun's rays. More sunscreen.

    11:50 a.m. — Pete pulls another out another small bass with a Carolina-rigged Zoom Lizard this time.

    12:30 p.m. — Nothing to report except that is freaking hot out here. I'm sweating all over, Pete's sweating down his back, the fish are sweating, somebody please turn on the A/C!

    1:00 p.m. — My prayers have been answered. The wind has kicked up a little bit and I can feel the heat being lifted from my body.

    T was straightening out a line and happened to hook a non-keeper bass without an effort.

    We've caught four bass in the last hour and a half and they were all undersized. I'm still not too worried about the limit because I know we'll go back to the dam.

    1:30 p.m. — Back to the golden dam for our last keeper. Here fishy, fishy.


    That was it. The one that got away. It will cost me $100, but may cost Peter T a shot at fishing tomorrow.

    There's still 50 minutes of fishing left. We could catch ten more, or lose ten more.

    3:01 p.m. — Last cast, no success.

    So, I'm back to even since two fish were missed and we caught four keepers. I've still got a shot at winning $500 for the biggest bass and for each place Pete moves up in the standings I get $100. So I'm okay with this.

    6:31 p.m. — Peter T is the last angler to weigh in. Thus far, the big bass is four pounds or so. Money in the bank for me. Will Pete make it into the top 12 though? The cut stands at 19 pounds, 9 ounces and T had a little over eight pounds yesterday.

    If our estimations on the water are correct, I think he's in.

    "Thirteen pounds and 12 ounces," Keith Alan announces to the audience. "Peter T has just bumped Steve Kennedy and will have a chance to fish tomorrow."

    He moved up 20 places from yesterday so that's an extra $2,000! On top of my $500 that T got me. Show me the money!

    What really sucks though, is that if I were an "eligible observer" I would have walked away with a brand new boat. Ah well, it makes for a good story.

    Day One: Greg Hackney

    posted late on May 18:

    The following is Scott Cooley's journal for his outing on the water with Greg Hackney on Day 1 at Eagle Mountain Lake:

    4:30 a.m. — My cell phone alarm goes off, I hit snooze.

    4:38 a.m. — The alarm triggers again, and again I hit snooze.

    4:46 a.m. — My gentle tone finally arouses me enough to wipe the sleep from my eyes. It is early I thought, really early. This is definitely a sport for the early-morning person.

    6:08 a.m. — I'm still half asleep but manage to stumble my way down to the dock. I find Hackney's Toyota-wrapped boat but he's not in it. I look around with squinted eyes and find "the man" making his way down from the marina with a bag of ice in his hands. Good thing he was prepared because I wasn't.

    He looks at me, smiles and says, "You're either going to make a lot of money today or you going to lose a lot of money today."

    That is definitely not the confidence booster you want to hear a few minutes after six o'clock in the morning. We weren't even in the boat yet and my stomach was in knots. I throw my lunch, Gatorade, and bottles of water in the cooler and get ready for the show.

    6:50 a.m. — We are ready for takeoff. The takeoff position of the angler is ever so important in these Elite tournaments, especially when we're on a body of water as small as Eagle Mountain Lake.

    Tournament officials previously decided the takeoff order would be determined by each angler's position in the Angler of the Year standings. Luckily, Hackney is presently sitting in the silver medal chair, second place. As soon as Iaconelli took off, we were gone.

    6:52 a.m. — Now I always hear from our cameramen about those long, arduous boat rides that tear up their backs and knees. I guess I lucked out because the man and I cruised to a little rock jetty not even a half mile away from the launch ramp.

    Hack starts the day off by throwing a Strike King spinnerbait on the outskirts of the rocks. A few hawks scavenge the rocks for any remains as my angler makes cast after cast down the ledge.

    6:56 a.m. — The man yanks his first fish out of Eagle Mountain. He flips him right into the boat and says, "He ain't going to keep, he ain't long enough," and then proceeds to flip him right back over.

    A tournament fish must be at least 14 inches in length to be considered a legal keeper.

    Hack switches over to a Strike King crankbait, but no luck with it. He puts that down and relieves back to the spinnerbait.

    7:01 a.m. — One white bass after another white bass was being pulled from the murky water of the lake. My man wasted no time surgically removing the hook from each white's mouth with a pair of needle-nose pliers, quickly tossing them over the opposite side of the boat, and resuming to fishing.

    Greg tells me that having a lot of white bass in the area was a good thing. That meant that the shad were up on the banks and the largemouths would be as well. He said the reason it was one white after another was because of the aggressiveness of the fish.

    "These fish see a bait and hit it. They don't even give the largemouth bass a chance to get it. They are very aggressive fish, much like a saltwater fish would be.

    "I chose a spinnerbait this morning because they usually don't bite it as much as the other lures. There are thousands of them in here, it's not like I can beat them up to get to the real bass."

    7:11 a.m. — We make another short run and as we come around the corner, two competitor boats are posted up in the premier spots. Hackney seemed a little disgusted.

    One of the main concerns of this tournament was the size of the lake and how anglers would essentially be fishing on top of each other. We ran into that problem in the first half hour of fishing, discouraging to say the least.

    7:13 a.m. — We move again. To more rock structure which is what Hackney thinks will be key to bringing in a limit everyday.

    "I'm running a pattern that strongly encourages me to fish all the rocks in the lake. I'm not spot fishing. I will hit basically any hard surfaces where the shad are spawning such as rocks, pontoon boats, under docks, or whatever."

    Just then he nails another fish. I see the look in the eyes of the fish screaming, "I'm too smaaaaaaall," as he sails over the opposite side of the boat back into the water. I'm not disappointed yet, because it was a thrill just to catch that many fish already.

    Now the Strike King buzz bait comes out of a compartment in the boat. For those that don't know, it's called a buzzbait because that is exactly how it sounds. Bzzzzzzzzzzz, as it cuts through the morning air and, splash! Not a second later, BAM!

    Only another white bass. And then another, and another. The bait wasn't in the water a total of two seconds and the white bass were tearing it up like an old credit card. I mean, every time it hit it was almost a simultaneous reaction to the bite.

    7:31 a.m. — The buzz bait buzzes past my face as sort of a second alarm going off. This fishing stuff is tough, and I haven't even picked up a rod or got out of my seat yet.

    7:35 a.m. — Another run for three minutes. Hackney is surprised about the nonexistent competitors on his spots.

    "I thought everybody would be running rocks like I am but now that we've run the banks it doesn't look like that's the case. I'm going to get my fish. I might spend all day grinding these out, but I'm going to get my limit."

    I have to talk for a second about the most impressive skill I saw on the water today. The pinpoint accuracy the man used while throwing his lures at targets was simply amazing. I could see him focus on a spot and then hit it with the utmost ease.

    Underhanded, overhanded, side-armed, flipping, jigging, rigging, finessing, whatever, he could do it with immaculate precision. In and out of piers and rocks with sometimes only a window of about 12 inches to squeeze it through. The man has mastered the art of casting.

    7:42 a.m. — I start to think about the money. Being only two years out of college I don't have a big savings account and when the move and marriage arrives, most of it will be depleted.

    "I'm fishing really good today, I can tell. I would feel pretty good about putting some cash in your pocket. Some days I am on and today is one of them."

    Alright, the first signs of optimism from the man. I like what I hear, my blood starts flowing and I get a little excited.

    7:50 a.m. — We're cruising in about one and a half to about two feet of water, Hack is still working the buzz bait around rocks. He switches back over to the crankbait and then the impossible happens – backlash.

    I didn't think it was ever conceivable for a man with his skills to make a mistake like that. Then I realized he was human after all and mistakes would be made, today.

    8:00 a.m. — Hackney pulls two 13-inchers right from underneath the dock he was working the crank on. I can feel some momentum building, the fish are here and I'm ready for something big. It's like a couple of hours before game time or right moments before the horses enter the gate, something is about to happen.

    "I hate to break the news to you, but that was a big one," Hack tells me as the missed bait goes flying over my head.

    Great. I'm already 100 bucks in the hole and beginning to second guess this decision I made.

    8:17 a.m. — I saw a big line pull and a rush of excitement tingled through my left leg. Then the feeling escaped me when we realized he was just hooked up with the underside of a rock.

    8:28 a.m. — The bait is stuck on something again, maybe the side of the dock Hack's working and I see him use a retrieving technique unknown to myself.

    Most anglers twinge the line or pop the rod a few times in the air to see if they can free there lure of whatever is restricting it. This time, the man grabbed his line at the reel and dipped the rod into the water and it came lose. The rod was all wet but that didn't seem to bother my angler.

    8:38 a.m. — On the run back to spot numero uno, the rock jetty. While making our way over there, traveling at a speed of 71 miles per hour, my red Berkley hat decided to go for a little fly and dive.

    Note to self: Always take off hat and any other loose articles of clothing while traveling across the water at high speeds.

    When we get to our favorite spot we both apply sunscreen thoroughly as the day begins to heat up. One time I had a bad experience without sunscreen but that is another story for another time. Please always use sunscreen.

    8:43 a.m. — We got it! Our first keeper!

    He wasn't hooked very well so the man had to wear the fish down by circling the boat exactly four times.

    "I want him to tire out and come right to me," said Hackney.

    The bite seemed to be on at this location now and Hack attested it to one main difference.

    "I switched over to a smaller Strike King crankbait."

    I didn't care if he was throwing his mother's pearls out there, I just made $50! I'm still down $50 (remember the missed fish cost me $100), but we have one in the livewell now and I was feeling a surge of confidence between the two of us. I could tell he was fishing with excitement and he looked like he figured out something.

    8:50 a.m. — Move locations a couple more times to continue the grind. We retrace our steps over the rocks, docks, and hard surfaces.

    8:56 a.m. — Another keeper! We're on a roll now!

    Before Hack landed it, he circled the boat a couple of times again but just as soon as he crossed over the engine the fish decided to leap two feet out of the water. My heart sank, and then anxiety exploded in my head.

    I started screaming, "Stay on! Stay on please!"

    The man eventually wrangled in the keeper to the boat and I was back to even money.

    9:04 a.m. — Hackney changes the hook on his crankbait from a number six sized hook to a number four sized hook. I'm not exactly sure what this meant but I think as you go down in number, the bigger the hook gets.

    "This bait gets out of tune very easily so you have to constantly adjust. The great thing about this guy is that he looks more like a shad than real shad do," Hack said with a grin.

    9:21 a.m. — A fatty comes aboard via the crankbait express. He was very thick through the stomach and that's how we like them. Hack tells me he isn't going to measure but I urge him to put him on the board anyway.

    Thirteen and a half inches. What a bummer. Who made this stupid minimum length rule anyway?

    9:35 a.m. — I'm still in utter astonishment over the accuracy of his casting. While he is bending over going under a dock he zips a strike in between two pillars about 12 inches apart. This guy could throw a bottle cap back into its own bottle if he wanted.

    9:38 a.m. — Keeper number three reaches its final destination – the livewell. It's probably a two and a half pounder, but size really doesn't matter for me. I'm in the positive money for now, up 50 bones.

    Now, I'm feeling pretty confident about the limit and our day. I kick my feet up on the deck and sit back to watch the man work. Two more is all we needed. We were just grinding it out, what a good game plan.

    10:00 a.m. — I'm starting to fade a little bit. The fishing has slowed down a little and a nap is sounding very refreshing at the moment. I wonder if I could lie down on the back deck next to the motor?

    10:10 a.m. — 523, 524, 525… That's just a close guess of what number cast the man is on. My arm would have fallen off by now.

    10:23 a.m. — Hackney catches his first fish in the last 30 minutes. It's too small, again.

    I noticed another boat sitting about 150 yards away from us on the main channel of the lake and watching us fish for about 15 minutes. He never picked up a rod, but just sat there and well, observed.

    "Sometimes people will come watch to see what I'm doing and then go and try to recreate that somewhere else."

    10:30 a.m. — We catch a six-inch spotted bass.

    The man's total fish catch by this time has to be well over 50 fish, covering four different species of the lake.

    10:40 a.m. — The Strike King swimming jig comes out of the boat. He's throwing it out a little ways with some slack in the line, and then popping the rod 5, 6, maybe 7 times while reeling it in.

    "I swim the jig in between the columns of the docks and suspend it a little bit."

    10:43 a.m. — The swimming jig retires to the deck of the boat after multiple unsuccessful casts.

    10:47 a.m. — Hack ties on a new crankbait. It is the exact same make and model, just a brand new lure. I equate this to a used golf ball.

    Sometimes a shot may go awry and hit a tree here or a cart path there. After the scuffs and bruises the golf ball doesn't fly as well or roll as straight as it use to. It's time to pull a new ball out of the bag. The same is true with a lure.

    "Sometimes they just get out of line and it's time to start over."

    11:00 a.m. — The bite has slowed drastically. We're back at our first rock point again, I think. Hackney keeps working hard, throwing cast, after cast, after cast, after cast, after cast, after cast, after cast. Oh sorry, did I get repetitive there? Exactly.

    11:10 a.m. — Lunchtime for me! I have been up since 4:30 in the morning and haven't eaten anything so I'm starving by this point. The man doesn't even notice the food as we make a run to another spot.

    Damn! My Doritos flew out of the boat on our ride to the new fishing hole.

    Note to self: Always secure all belongings, especially bags of tasty nacho cheese Doritos, while traveling 70 miles per hour across a body of water.

    11:35 a.m. — Not much action. A couple of small bass and a few whites. For some reason though, I'm still not worried about securing our limit of fish. I've got Greg Hackney fishing on my side.

    12:06 p.m. — We haven't had as much as a nibble in the last half hour. I'm starting to stress a little now and Greg seems to be a little antsy as well.

    We had three keepers an hour and a half ago and now I'm thinking if we do catch five, I bet that will be all we get for the day. No bonus fish.

    12:12 p.m. — Hooked up with a 10-pound drum. Right size but not the right species.

    12:23 p.m. — We've got less than two and half hours of fishing left and only three keepers in the boat. Change of plans. Hack's going to do some flipping of the jig.

    "I'll probably come back to the crankbait, but I had some keeper bites during practice doing this in this area."

    Let's hope this new game plan will produce two 6-pounders.

    12:42 p.m. — Nothing with the jig. We make a move and go find some more rocks. Back to cranking. The tension is building inside both of us now. We need these two fish and we need them now.

    12:49 p.m. — Changing over to a finesse worm with a spinning rod while covering the docks. My confidence in a limit is gradually subsiding. Two hours until we have to be back at the boat dock.

    1:00 p.m. — The second wave of weariness has begun to fall upon me. I don't know how he's still fishing. I don't even know how he's still standing up. We're at least 1000 casts into the day and he's been standing on the deck almost the entire day.

    No lunch, no bathroom break (I've had four), pure unadulterated fishing. The temperature has climbed to over 80 degrees now and there isn't a cloud in the sky. No breeze or shade, and I'm sweating bullets. HOT!

    1:15 p.m. — All I can think about now is the heat, the sun, and all the money I'm not going to win because we can't catch another fish. Hack doesn't seem to express the same mode of panicking that I am.

    "I takes that long to catch of couple of keepers man," while snapping his fingers. "I could potentially catch 20 fish between now and the time we go back in. Relax man."

    I'm anything but relaxed by this point. I need a warm shower and a cold bed.

    1:25 p.m. — We arrive back at spot number one. A couple of blue herring guarding the premise was a good sign.

    BAM! Keeper number four just entered our world. What sun? What heat? It was time to fish now. One more decent fish and we should be scores ahead of the rest of the field.

    1:30 p.m. — I am a happy man, a very happy man. We were a high-fiving, chest bumping, knuckle-punching duo.

    Not a big limit, probably ten pounds right now, but it was a limit.

    1:35 p.m. — Culled up one of our smaller ones. Six keepers equals $300.

    1:58 p.m. — Lucky number seven enters our life, and we cull up. My total now stands at $350, minus the $100 for the missed fish. So I have a net worth of $250!!

    2:42 p.m. — We make our way back to the dock with the limit of 11 or 12 pounds. Hackney finally relieves himself.

    2:45 p.m. — There is no reason to be late so check in with five minutes to spare.

    4:17 p.m. — The man weighs in his fish at the weigh-in and puts a total of 11 pounds, 6 ounces on the scales. With this weight he ends up in 15th place, a nice bonus of $1,050 for me. Add this to my $250 from on the water, and I can almost pay my and fiancé's first month's rent in California. Thanks a bunch Greg Hackney, you are the man!

    Tomorrow I observe Peter Thliveros. I get a bonus of $100 every place he moves up the standings, but I lose $100 for every position he drops.

    posted early on May 18:

    There are a few reasons why I'm at the Bassmaster Major this weekend in Fort Worth, Texas.

    I have to be. I work for Bassmaster.com and started covering events for the Web site at the Open Championship last year in Prattville, Ala. Since then, I have witnessed one Classic and five Elite Series tournaments and can't even begin to describe the experiences I've had.

    Reason number two: This is great fishing in your face. These 50-plus guys are good. I mean really good. I can see it in their eyes when I'm interviewing them, when they're almost in disbelief recounting the moment where the five-pounder slipped off. This is a very exciting and intense sport, and I love sports.

    And the last reason: Those professional anglers are fishing for $250,000, but they aren't the only cats on the water for some dough this week. I just so happened to be on the receiving end of a friendly wager that put me in the boat with an Elite angler as an observer.

    Terms of the deal

    This sounds like a great deal, right? I can win a Triton Boat with a Mercury motor on it worth about $50,000 if my angler catches the biggest bass of the tournament.

    Not so the case. In the fine print it always states that an employee of such and such company and any immediate family members are not eligible to claim prizes, blah, blah, blah.

    There will be no boat for me, but just being an observer and having a chance at that wasn't the wager we made. Every time my angler lands a keeper, my friend who was on the losing end of the bet owes me $50. Here's the catch. Every time my angler has a fish come off or misses a fish, I lose $100.

    Did I mention that I'm getting married in four months? I just paid for a honeymoon to Jamaica. I'm moving out to California after the wedding where the difference in the cost of living between there and Little Rock, Ark., is drastic. I need money, and I need it now.

    There are a few other "bonus" catches worth some money to make it interesting. If my angler catches the Purolator Big Bass, I put 500 one-dollar bills into my pocket. Let's say he comes in with the Busch Heavyweight bag, that's another 500 smackers.

    His position in the standings after Day One also affects my payout. If the angler is sitting in the 50th place position at the conclusion of the first day, I will earn an additional $30. From every place from there up, I get another $30. So, 49th would be $60, 48th $90, 47th $120, and so on up until you reached numero uno: $1,500!

    That could pay for my first month's rent on our one-bedroom apartment on the West Coast.

    The ideal scenario would be for my man (notice he's the "man" now because I'm rooting for him with every bit of my fanatic spirit) to catch a lot of fish with a lot of weight.

    I foresee him landing 12 keepers, that's $600. With one of them being the big bass of the day, there's $500 on top of my six to make it a little over a grand. I'm guessing a total weight of 22 pounds, 3 ounces for a solid third-place standing after Day One which gives me a whopping $1,440. I'm looking at well over $2,500 during one day of fishing where I don't even have to pick up a rod. How's that for fun?

    Then I started thinking about the missed fish. He is human and humans do make mistakes. One hundred bucks for every missed fish? I had to think positive. The man doesn't miss fish because he is the man, right?

    Who's the man?

    That's what I kept telling myself as I waited in the sweltering heat of the angler meeting at Billy Bob's for the pairings. My name was the second out of the hat. Bassmaster emcee Keith Alan cleared his voice and said, "Scott Cooley and ….Greg Hackney."

    Excitement, nervousness, joy, adrenaline, fear all rushed through my body at once.

    Greg Hackney. Measured in some poles as the number-one bass angler in the world. Dollar signs began to fill my head. I got up to shake his hand and explain to him how my financial well being depends solely on his success on the water.

    "You better do some prayin' that my hooks are sharp," he said.

    Oh, I'm praying right now. Praying that the man is getting a good night's rest and is ready to rock and roll in the morning. I can't wait. I don't even know if I will be able to sleep tonight.

    You won't miss out on any of the action either. I'm putting my pen and paper in the boat tomorrow and will give you a detailed account of our fishing day on the water. From every snapped line to every giant that Hack lands, you will know about it. Check back in tomorrow to see how I, uhhhh, we do.