For the first time since the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk, the Bassmaster Elite Series gathered on the shores of historic Lake Eufaula. It was the first major bass tournament since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. I had the opportunity to spend four wonderful days in the Big Bass Capital of the World serving as an Elite Series Marshal, and I was treated to a memorable experience.
Here are my 10 takeaways from the DEWALT Bassmaster Elite at Lake Eufaula:
1. Kudos to the team at B.A.S.S. that worked countless hours during the pandemic to deliver a full schedule to the anglers, sponsors, host communities and fans of bass fishing. It’s no easy task to make happen and there are so many moving parts, but the folks at B.A.S.S. pulled it off. I commend them for it.
2. B.A.S.S. did everything right in how they structured and handled the event from a safety and preparation standpoint. Everyone associated with the event was required to wear a mask and maintain social distancing whenever possible. Meetings were handled through text messages and other safety measures were taken. In talking with several anglers throughout the week, they really liked the additional measures taken and the communication through text and video.
3. Having DEWALT, who generates roughly $4 billion in revenue annually, on board as the title sponsor of the event made a strong statement about the belief in the product that B.A.S.S. is able to deliver, even during a worldwide pandemic.
4. The sport of bass fishing took a huge step forward this month with 20 hours of Bassmaster LIVE programming on ESPN2. ESPN and B.A.S.S. have a long-term relationship, and without much in the way of live sports these days the big network offered B.A.S.S. a wonderful opportunity. The team of Tommy Sanders, Mark Zona, Davy Hite, Ronnie Moore and Mike Suchan nailed it square in the sweet spot. I don’t know if this was a one-time deal, but I have a feeling it won’t be the last.
5. A lot of credit goes out to Mayor Jack Tibbs of Eufaula for hosting the first Elite Series event out of the pandemic. Originally scheduled for April, the event was postponed and rescheduled for December, then November, back to December and then finalized for June. Mayor Tibbs takes a lot of pride in promoting the Eufaula area as a destination for bass fishing and is an angler himself. The crowds on Friday and Saturday did not disappoint.
6. “I’ve got enough brush marked on this lake to fish for three or four days, but it doesn’t matter if you’re not getting bit,” said Stetson Blaylock during the late morning hours on Day 1 when I served as his Marshal. While fishing those brush piles would be the winning pattern in the tournament, it was all about timing.
7. Speaking of brush, I received quite an education this week on brush piles. I remarked at one point that I was amazed the folks around Eufaula had time to work a job. Otherwise, when would someone have time to put out that much brush? I was also surprised at the number of anglers fishing the same brush, not only throughout the day, but at the same time on a few occasions. On Day 2 of the event, I was paired with Lee Livesay, and we started on a place fishing brush along with Caleb Sumrall, Greg DiPalma and Chris Johnston all within 30 yards of each other. Other times during the day, the three anglers I was paired with would stop and fish brush that had been fished by the angler I was paired with on the previous day.
8. Elite Series anglers are extremely competitive, but they also look out for one another. On Day 2, Lee Livesay was fishing in a pocket having completed his limit and was unable to upgrade his catch. While idling out of the pocket, we noticed another angler in the same pocket. Livesay idled over to the angler and asked if he had a limit. “No,” replied the angler. Livesay gave him the spot in the pocket we had just left in an effort to help him complete his limit.
9. Brandon Cobb has poise far beyond his 30 years on earth. Cobb brought 19-3 to the scales on Day 1 but found himself with only three fish at noon on Day 2. Never rattled, Cobb continued to work his plan and sacked 21 pounds to complete his day. While serving as his Marshal on Day 3, he indicated to me that we were going to make a short run to fish a bank he hadn’t fished but he needed to “kill about an hour” before his fish were ready to bite. He would go on to a 19-5 day and finished fourth in the event.
10. The Bassmaster Marshal Program is the best program in fishing today. For less than $100, you are guaranteed a minimum of two days in the boat “job-shadowing” an Elite Series pro. For more information, check out www.basmaster.com/elite.