A moment of reflection

With age, comes reflection, it seems. As I celebrate my 20th year with B.A.S.S. this month, it feels natural to take a look backward, if for no other reason than to gain perspective for illuminating a path forward.

Dave Precht hired me in 1999 as a part of the media relations team, I’m assuming because there were no other applicants. I traveled the country covering the Bassmaster Top 150 Tour, writing press releases and assisting television crews and newspaper reporters covering the events. A quick look at the June 1999 issue of Bassmaster reveals some common threads in the B.A.S.S. landscape over the past two decades. Precht was celebrating his 20th year with the company. Rick Clunn placed second in the Top 150 event at Lake Mead that year. Jay Yelas was 13th and Mark Menendez was 19th. These three pros are still thriving on the Elite Series stage today.

Precht moved me to the editorial department in 2001. In 2003, after ESPN purchased B.A.S.S., Dave handed me the reins of this magazine. It was a bittersweet moment, as my father had just lost his battle with cancer and Bassmaster was his favorite magazine. It was the proudest moment of my life, as well as one of the most painful. Precht immediately became a professional mentor to me, and eventually, whether he knew it or not, filled the role of a second father in my life.

“Dave, the ad sales team wants to sell a fractional ad on the contents page, which will destroy the integrity of the layout,” I once complained.

“We serve the reader first. The reader experience is paramount, and it’s your job to not only maintain, but improve this experience. Always fight for this,” Precht advised.

“Dave, I have redone this freakin’ expense report 13 times and it is still getting kicked back. Why in the world are people in accounting so mean?”

“James,” he replied, “they are simply born that way.”

“Dave, Rachel wants to get married. That was not part of the deal when we started dating. What should I do?”

“You better marry that woman before she changes her mind!” he insisted.

And so it went for the past 20 years. He was the rock I leaned on through three ownership changes at B.A.S.S. He was the one who gave me advice when the housing bubble popped in 2007. He was the one who outfished me when we went on media boondoggles. (Yes, some lessons are more painful than others.)

Now, after 40 years of dedicated service to B.A.S.S. and the readers of Bassmaster Magazine, Precht has decided to retire. Read his final column for the announcement. Incidentally, Precht may be the only person in the history of corporate employment who, after retirement, will fish less than when he worked full time ... and I expect him to fish a lot during retirement.

It is his last 20 years, though, that mean the most to me. He taught me not only how to be a better writer, editor and manager, but how to be a better man. So, moving forward without Dave will be a personal hardship. Although reflection is certainly a contemplative neccessity at times, it also brings to mind the redirection of light. In that sense, my hope is to march onward with beams of integrity and excellence learned from Precht as B.A.S.S. continues to evolve. And most importantly, I hope to get outfished by him again in the near future.