Columns

2002.06.26 The language of the bass pro

on . Posted in By The Way

By DAVID GREEN

From my personal experience, I’d have to say that the large mouth bass has a rather limited vocabulary. It’s impressive for a bass, I suppose, but there’s not much to talk about.

Once you’ve heard “Take Me to the River” and “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” more than once or twice, you wish bass had never learned to sing.

But bass fishermen…that’s a different story. They speak a different language. It’s the language of love—love for the hand-painted Strike King jerkbait, love for the chartreuse buzzbait, love for the two-day total exceeding 15 pounds.

There is often despair in their words (“The rain muddied it up real bad and my heart sank. I thought I was done.”). Sometimes they speak words of wisdom (“Sticking with one lure while fishing here has been my Achilles heel.”)

Sometimes they speak tiring words that reporters seeking quotes use anyway, because they think even a bad quote is better than no quote.

• “This is unbelievable.” – Greg Lineberry, Galax, Va.

• “This is just unbelievable.” – Andre Moore, Scottsdale, Ariz.

• “I feel pretty good.” – Dick Shaffer, Celina, Ohio.

• “I feel pretty good.” – Chad Grigsby, Colon, Mich.

• “It’s a great feeling.” – Jeremy Ives, Burgaw, N.C.

You can just hear the reporter asking, “How does it make you feel?”

It takes a real pro to speak like a real bass pro. Take Larry Nixon of Bee Branch, Ark., for example. This is his 24th year of competitive fishing and he’s earned $453,200.

Now don’t say that averages less than $19,000 a year, because big money fishing didn’t exist in his younger days. He made about $120,000 last year and $217,000 the year before.

After he took the lead at Lake Wheeler using a black and blue Strike King jig with a pork trailer, he explained his good fortune this way: “I started to fish the Elk River, but then I turned around. I didn’t want to go up there and die.”

Spoken like a true pro. Here’s what he said about his recent career:

“I got into a lull about four or five years ago. I just got complacent and didn’t really care, but now I want to win. Right now I’m loving it.”

David Dudley (one of six pros with that last name) is an up-and-coming bass pro who won $700,000 one day in March. You can tell by the way he talks that he’s on the way to stardom.

He traveled 85 miles from the boat launch area to visit what he later called “the promised land,” an isolated oxbow in a Texas delta.

“I felt my water was fished out. I just didn’t have any more confidence in the area. The moon really affected the tide Friday night. When I saw the water as high as it was at takeoff, I was bubbling with joy.”

His black, blue and purple jig had a blue sapphire chunk trailer. What bass could resist that?

In bass Internet chatrooms, there’s some debate about how to become a well-known bass fisherman. One chatter says it’s simple: win.

Another disagrees. You don’t have to be a winner, he says. You need the right attitude and you need to sell yourself to sponsors.

“Sponsors are using you as a sales tool,” says Chris. “They want a personality that can help them sell.”

Oh sure, answers Mark, if you’re content to stand in a sponsor’s booth all day at local tournaments in exchange for a few free products. If that’s your idea of a successful bass pro, then you’re all set. But if that doesn’t fit your image, then winning is everything.

“You aren’t going to be a full-time bass fisherman for long if you don’t win,” he says.

But you also have to talk the talk.

“I lost a big fish early and it haunted me all day,” J.T. Kenney said on the shores of the fabled Lake Okeechobee. “Kept thinking I was going to lose it by just a little bit. A very little bit.”

He came through and pocketed $110,000, but don’t ask “How does it feel?” This pro choked up like he had a green pumpkin bacon rind jig stuck in his throat.

He simply said there were no words to describe how he felt.

    – June 26, 2002 

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