A Tale Of Twenty Fish
By Don Barone
“And we're floating across the waves…”
Dateline: All the marbles
It is, once again, quiet.
The dew that remains on the ground is safe.
Safe from the imprints of truck tires.
Safe from the imprint of shoe prints.
Safe, until the sun crests the tree line.
It is but 6:08,
And they are all gone. Already. Gone.
Already floating on the waves of Oneida Lake.
Come this early dew filled Monday morning. Day one of the last week of the Elite regular season.
The dew, is safe.
Safe for another hour or so, until the morning sun punches in.
The dew, is safe.
Safe because all the Elite anglers in the campground with me have already left for the day. Gone from dawn to dusk.
This last week of the regular season.
The biggest week of the regular season.
The dew, is safe.
Safe, because it is not the tiny drops that the Elites chase.
Safe, because at 6:08….AM…the chase is already on.
Out there at the end of the pebbled road.
Out there on Oneida Lake.
Safe, because, all that matters now,
is the chase for twenty fish.
“…sailing for some other shore…”
Say all you want, put all the comments you want on all the fishing boards, strategize this, strategize that.
Listen to all the so-called experts.
Run all the numbers, do the sports math, this, that, tendencies, historical data.
Opinion this, opinion that.
Discuss on, rant on.
Blah, blah, blah.
Because only one thing matters.
All the rest of the stuff, just flotsam, dribble.
Words written in dew on the morning grass.
All that matters is,
All that stands between one Elite angler and the coveted Angler of the Year title is,
All that stands between the Elite anglers trying desperately to make the Bassmaster Classic is,
For a couple of years I used to cover the Pittsburgh Steelers when I worked in town there, spent a lot of time around the players, around the coaches, even spent several days rooming with them out at training camp.
I was new to the sports reporting biz…it was back in 1992 or 93, forget exactly just when.
Coach Cowher was new to the Head Coaching biz as well. We were all sitting around the camp dining table, I was sitting next to huge Tight End, Eric Green, I was listening to a couple of Pittsburgh area sports reporters ask Coach Cowher questions.
I was learning the sports reporter biz.
Eric Green was eating what was left off my plate.
Someone asked the coach a question that went something like, “What will it take to win the division this year, coach.”
His answer set the tone for my next couple of decades in the sports reporting biz.
The simple straight forwardness of it.
The simple eloquence of it.
The simple beauty of it.
What will it take to win the division this year.
“Win more games than anyone else in it.”
How will you do that.
“Score more points than they do.”
What will it take to win AOY this week.
What will it take to make the Bassmaster Classic this week.
“…where we can be what we wanna be…”
A few years back I was standing on a dock before launch somewhere and an Elite Rookie came up to me and said to me, “Hey you are good friends of Skeet Reese, I’m a huge fan of his, admire him so much, would you ask him for me what it takes to win out here…I don’t want to do it but I would love to hear his take on it.”
So I walked down to the end of the doc where Skeet was tied up and told him what the rookie asked me to ask him, “How can this kid be more successful out here dude.”
And his answer, made me smile.
Made me flash back twenty years.
To Steeler training camp.
All Skeet said to my question was this: “Catch bigger fish.”
As I sat in the db/bb/rv this early morning I watched as my next-door neighbor, Brent Chapman kissed his wife, Bobbi, goodbye, and then headed out to practice.
I watched as my other neighbors, Randy Howell, Ott Defoe, Kevin Short, Rick Clunn, Steve Kennedy, Billy McCaghren, Dustin Wilks, Tak, Brian Snowden, John Murray and James Niggemeyer pretty much did the same thing.
Then headed out.
Through the morning dew.
Through the gentle fog on Oneida Lake.
On their quest to make the rafters of the sport.
To win the Bassmaster Classic.
To win Angler of the Year.
All who left, and many more of them, I consider friends. Some very close, some just casual buds, but friends nonetheless.
When I lean up on their boats and talk, when I sit at their campfires and talk, when they ask me about sports, and my experiences around the best athletes of the last couple of decades, when they ask questions that may help them, I can speak of nothing to do with fishing. That, they have covered.
But I tell them what champions have told me, and what the greatest champions have told me is so very simple.
So peaceful in its design.
So comforting in the chaos that follows the game.
I tell them.
Win more games than anyone else.
Score more points than anyone else.
You want to make the Bassmaster Classic.
You want to win Angler of the Year.
Score more points than anyone else out here.
Win more events than anyone else out here.
And what will it take to do that.
No matter what anyone says.
No matter what the media says.
No matter what the board experts rant about.
What will it take to win.
Is simply this,
Five big fish a day.
For four days.
As I told Brent Chapman yesterday while leaning on his boat and talking to him and his wife, Bobbi, “Forget all the hoopla going on around you, forget all the conjecture, don’t listen to the media, the experts, just listen to yourself, no one but YOU got you here, believe in yourself.”
And then I put my hand gently on his arm, and in the spirit of Coach Cowher, I told Brent, “It all comes down to this week and the only thing standing between you and AOY…
…is Twenty fish.”
Win more games.
Score more points.
And the B.A.S.S. rafters, is yours.
“…oh this must be what paradise is like.”
So Quiet In Here