Now that I have your attention, you may find this interesting. The Bassmaster Elite Series is into other animals in addition to dogs! If you know my family history, you know we like animals and animal stories. They seem to always add something fun to fishing, especially during tournaments. If you watch Bassmaster Live, blogs, and weigh-ins, animals pop up here and there, adding extra entertainment, not as if we need it with the likes of Ike and G-man!
Remember years ago at the Sacramento Delta when my son Aaron was caught on live camera meowing at feral cats on the bank? Zona commented on Live that it was Aarons's only fan gallery, and he was right! Always wanting a laugh, Zona meowed around Aaron for many years after that. They even meowed together on Zona’s Awesome Fishing Show. We still meow among other animal noises when our family fishes together. You know you do it too, right?
A few years later, Zona named Aaron the Hog snatcher because of the big bass he was catching. Last year Aaron won the Lake Havasu tournament, and while we were enjoying dinner celebrating his win and Mother’s Day, his cell phone rang, and he took the call. Aaron just listened and then laughed and hung up. I asked him who called, and he rolled his eyes and said, Zona. He said Zona wanted him to hear the song he had just made up about the new, Furious Hog snatcher.
Who can forget Aaron’s blackbird pattern that took him to his win at Havasu? No one else had dialed into the fact that baby blackbirds were falling into the shallow water from their nests way back in the tulles. I was fishing with Aaron on Havasu in the early ’90s when we fished the blackbird pattern. We caught a few that way, but I still remember the bullfrog Aaron caught that measured over 16 inches long.
Bassmaster refers to Aaron as The Natural because he seems to be in tune with nature. As a small child, we called him Nature Boy. Just this week, during the Potomac River weigh-in, Chad Morgenthaler mentioned that he and Aaron had shared a fishing area that day. He said Aaron caught more and better fish and realized that Aaron had two deer next to him on the bank and an eagle and seagull circling over his head. When Chad looked up, he saw two vultures above his head. That got a laugh from everyone!
Have I noticed many of the Elites have animal nicknames or animals in their names? I asked Jeff Kriet how he liked being referred to as The Squirrel? He said people started calling him that a long time ago because of his nervousness, and it doesn’t bother him. Jeff also has a dry sense of humor and let me know it did bother him when he was on stage at a show and the audience was more interested in a nearby water-skiing squirrel than him!
Then there’s Ott Defoe. Do you think he’s named after an otter? I don’t have his phone number yet, so I need to find that out later. I know otters love water. Last week at the Potomac, Ott returned a floundering baby osprey to its nest with help from Koby Krieger. Those are real heroes in my book, no matter their names.
How about the tall red-headed guy named Greg Vinson, referred to as The Rooster? I just called him to get the reason why and it was a fun call. Greg has had many nicknames before Rooster. They named him All World in high school because he played all the sports. And then, in college, it was Big V because of his height. Greg said that by the time he was a senior, no one knew his first name.
As an Elite Pro, Donna Menendez, Mark's wife who recently passed away, lovingly called Greg Ginger. Greg said he always loved Donna but not being called Ginger! Greg told me someone got to Dave Mercer when he came on board as the Elite MC and suggested Dave call Greg The Rooster. You only have to say it once, and it will stick. Greg’s been called The Rooster for years and this year decided to make his theme song Rooster by Alice in Chains.
I can honestly say that the Rooster is not “Cocky,” and I’m glad for those of us who know him. Greg and I talked about Mark Menendez and his beloved dog and fishing buddy, Barkley. Barkley was a great dog that always wore a bandana around his neck and fished with Mark whenever it was allowed. Mark would probably say he went to the dogs years ago just like the rest of us who have had four-legged fishing buddies. Some other Elites bring their dogs with them to the tournaments. Steve Kennedy and his family always had their little Jack Russell Louie with them that I understand have been gone for a while now.
For as long as I can remember, Jerry McKinnis of BASS has been devoted to little brown dogs. Years ago, we watched Jerry on TV on his Fishing Hole show. His show always began with Norman, his dachshund jumping in the water from the dock. About 15 years ago, Jerry got Archie, who passed away last year. Now he has a new puppy named Ollie! They are all Doxies. Our Ollie was a male Maltese who also lived close to 15 years. I didn’t realize until now that Ollie is a popular name after all!
While so many others have chosen dogs for pets, Aaron and his family have zeroed in on cats. They have had Sara, considered Jordan's cat, for years now. Sara goes to tournaments and has traveled by car and air to California many times. Like some anglers I know, Sara is extraordinarily aloof and looks like she swallowed a canary.
Just this month, Spencer got his kitten named Grayson. Grayson attended the Potomac River tournament with Sara and the family for the first time. When Aaron and I started bass-fishing in the ’80s, we got a Maltese puppy named Eddie. (Named after my dad Ed). Eddie always fished with us unless allowed, pouring rain or too hot. People referred to us as that woman, her son, and their dog. They didn’t mean it kindly because we beat them most of the time. Eddie fished with us for close to 14 years and was missed by our fishing community when he passed on.
I love having pets, but since my husband passed away and our last Maltese Sheila died just before him, I have transitioned into having no pets or other people to take care of. This has allowed me to travel and go fishing like I did last weekend and like I’m going to do tomorrow. I said all of this because some of the greatest joys we had as a family included our pets. Of course, when they pass on, it leaves a massive hole in our hearts, and it’s always difficult or impossible to replace them. That’s even truer when your mate is gone. Aaron offered to buy me a Maltese puppy, and I told him, please don’t. For the time being, I dog sit for my friends and family when I need a doggie fix. And as a gentle reminder, always enjoy your family and pets while you have them. Some of you are saying AMEN to that!
I hope the Elites keep going to the dogs, and I hope I’ve pulled some heartstrings as well. I will be writing an article soon on taking a dog fishing. Get ready for some handy tips, laughs, and tears. I have also been gathering stories on weird and wacky things that have happened to several Elite anglers. There’s just so much to write about and so little time!