Lakecaster Online Archives - Sep, 2002

The Press Angler

By Ed Snyder
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Ed Snyder

Gripping the bass boats side-rail with white-knuckled trepidation as my pro-angler steered and balanced our speeding craft along the curling edge of a boat-wake in front of us, we managed to pass through the fleet of crisscrossing "pond-rockets" that were turning left, breaking right, or racing forward to their pre-dawn fishing areas. As we suddenly break to our left I brace against a G-force yaw that turned us directly into the chilling teeth of arctic winds and rains for our forty-three mile run upriver……… "Welcome, to the world of the PressAngler!!"

(BassMaster founder Ray Scott coined the term "PressAngler" during his1971 beginnings after seeing the need for teaming up his tournament anglers with outdoor writers to get some "ink" about his newly formed national tournament trail, Scott then invited local, and national outdoor press to ride along to fish with his bass tournament anglers who would soon become the rising stars of his Bass Anglers Sportsman's Society)

Working in outdoor communications for 16 years now, my first experience at becoming a PressAngler arrived one chilly November morning back in '94 while covering a Bass N'Gal World Classic event in St Louis, MO. Heading out across turbid post-flood waters of the mighty Mississippi, my pro-angler, a Bass N'Gal nick-named "Flaming-Mamey", had earned her unusual icon after winning a boat race on the Sabine River, in Port Arthur, TX. After her high performance engine over-fueled and caught fire, the lady kept her throttle wide-open to avoid a fiery explosion and managed to rocket her flaming craft across the finish line while trailing a 6' long plume of flame, which earned her infamous nickname penned by an outdoor writer who witnessed her amazing feat! But even with the knowledge of her EXTREME boating ability tucked within my memory cell I still PUCKERED my boat-seat and WHITE-KNUCKLED the safety rail as our Ranger bass-rig went airborne by at least 8 feet after surfing a HUGE river-barge swell at better than 60 miles per hour. "Now folks, THAT was one helluva experience!!

A pressanglers responsibility is mainly to witness and record the catches of their pro-angler through media writings, and or photography for outdoor news reports, as well as to provide a safety feature for the pro-angler in case of medical problems or accidents that may prohibit the pro-angler from operating his craft. Pressanglers are usually trained to operate high performance bass boats for just that reason.

An incident that occurred during an FLW Championship held on the Red River in Shreveport LA, had me teamed with another pressangler for photo ops. We had been some photo images of pro-angler leader, Tommy Biffle, as he fished the Bishops Point area catching a solid 3 lb bass. After Biffle moved further back into his flooded timber we decided to move on to locate Larry Nixon. But not finding Nixon we moved upriver until spotting pro-angler, Dion Hibdon, who was fishing river bank structure. When moving in I held my camera up to show that I was a pressangler and not a fisherman moving in on his water. Immediately, Dion's camera boat positioned between us to block us, so honoring the friendly warning we kept about 30 yards out. But after forty-five minutes of watching Dion hook & shake several undersized bass we decided that he wasn't in the "zone" and decided to move on. "WRONG THING TO DO as only minutes after we left Dion found his "zone" that put the winning bass in his boat that earned him the $250,000 winners check. (Lesson Learned- as patience often provides just rewards)

Another "lesson-learned" during that same FLW event almost cost me $4,000 in cameras and equipment, as after we decided to leave for the launch-ramp to grab some lunch before heading to the FLW weigh-in site, I placed my "rather heavy" camera bag on the boat seat between me, and the other pressangler who was operating our high-speed Bullet at almost max speed. Then, while relaxing and enjoying the scenic shoreline zipping past at Mach-2, my boat driver yelled a frantic warning and immediately shutdown our craft from 70 to -0- mph in 2.6 seconds. Unbelievably, my "rather-heavy" camera bag had actually levitated from the boat-seat and was about to become Red River flotsam when my partner managed to grab it, saving me, not only my expensive cameras, but also my two days of photo coverage for the FLW Championship. ……"WHEW!!"

Another mystifying and rather unusual trip had me paired with a fishing friend who offered to become my camera boat operator during a winterized Lake Sam Rayburn BassMaster event. A full-blown arctic front greeted us for our pre-dawn ease-out as we followed one of the leading anglers to his fishing spot for photos. As we raced out against chilling 28-degree temps with minus 30-degree winds coated everything with a snowy white frost, I snuggled DEEPLY within my parka for warmth to avoid frost-bite from our 27 mile boat-run to his north-lake fishing area. Then, after 20 freezing minutes of running time, and upon sensing our boat slow and yaw to the right, I popped out of my parka to focus on the boat in front of us only to see that it wasn't the same boat we had started out behind. Well shoot, I declared to myself, reaching over to shake my partner and asking, Hey man, where we at? My partner turned to me with sleepless, bleary eyes, and said, "Heck, I don't know??…OH WELL! …This "asleep at the wheel" incident didn't end up as a failed venture however as we actually ended up BY ACCIDENT behind the angler who would win the tournament. In fact, no sooner had we positioned near him for photos he managed to catch a 5 lb bass that anchored his winning weight……INCREDIBLE!

Yet another Rayburn BassMaster run had me following the #1 camera boat that held BASS writer/photographer, Steve Price, as we trailed the leading angler on the final day of the event. Moving into the small bay to hopefully get some of his catches on film, we positioned just about 30 yards from him. After another bass boat began nosing into the pros fishing spot, both anglers started verbalizing on who had the right to fish the area. The BASS/Pro explained his position of leading the tournament and really needed that water for winning the event, where upon the other angler, explained that he was pre-fishing for a tournament a week away and also needed that water to find a pattern for his upcoming event. As both anglers nosed towards each other with caustic chatter, to my chagrin, the pre-fisher suddenly noticed our two camera boats taking pictures and immediately left the area to the leading pro, who ended up winning the event. Well Shucks, I thought to myself, two anglers fighting over a fishing spot coulda-woulda made for some really exciting action shots…. "Darn It!"

My line of work in outdoor communications has its many benefits and rewards within its area of operations that may involve anything from threading crickets on bream-hooks, to working matted hydrilla-beds with one-ounce bass jigs, to chasing specks & reds over oyster reefs with popping corks. But the most exciting of all my field assignments has got to be those times when I'm ……. Gripping the bass boats side-rails with white-knuckled trepidation as my pro-angler steers and balances our speeding craft along the curling edge of a boat-wake in front of us as we manage to pass through the fleet of crisscrossing "pond-rockets" that are turning left, breaking right, or racing forward to their pre-dawn fishing areas when we suddenly break to our left causing me to brace against the G-force yaw that turns us directly into the chilling teeth of arctic winds and rains for our forty-three mile run upriver…"WHEW"… "Welcome, to the world of the PressAngler!!"

(Ed Snyder is an active member of TOWA-LOWA-SEOPA outdoors writers associations and managing editor of Lakecaster Publications. To contact him for input or information about upcoming events click to www.lakecaster.net or e-mail to edsnyder@jas.net .)

(POST-NOTE- the "Flaming-Mamey" icon belongs to none other than legendary Bass N'Gal World Champion, Ann Thomason Wilson, of Ann's Tackle Shop in Jasper, TX.)