When I got the call from Steve Bowman, editor at ESPN Outdoors.com, I honestly wasn't thrilled.
Here he was asking me to take time from an already short two-and-a-half-day practice period on a 200,000-plus acre lake to haul a writer out for part of Wednesday. Not an outdoor writer, not just any writer, but a sure 'nuff sports writer for ESPN.
A sports writer who has never fished for bass a day in his life. My first thought was "This is probably some candy ass guy from New York who doesn't even know what a bass looks like." I was correct on two parts of that assumption.
So who is Don Barone? I had never heard of the guy until Bowman called and asked me to show him what this bass fishing thing is all about. Seems he's a wheel on SportsCenter. One of those producer/writer/journalist/big-time sports guys. Been with ESPN for over 14 years. Hmmm. I was impressed with that and the fact that his email address ended with @espn.com. But what does he know about bass fishing?
Called him on the phone and set up a time to meet this Barone guy on Wednesday a.m. Showed up on time with one minor problem no fishing license.
What does this guy know about fishing? Everyone knows you have to have a license to go fishing. We figure we might be able to call the NYSDEC from the water and get him one, so we head to the ramp. This is where I learn how much this Barone guy knows about fishing.
First person we see at the ramp is KVD, who recognizes Barone (what a one-upper that KVD is) and walks over to introduce himself. After the intros and some small talk, Van Dam heads off toward his boat.
Barone turns to my wife and says, "Should I know who he is? Is he somebody?"
I am losing it. Laid out in the parking lot laughing my butt off. Dude doesn't know who Kevin VanDam is!
Hey, all you bass fishing homers here's a news flash here is a real life, big-time sports reporter/writer who works for ESPN who has never heard of Kevin VanDam.
Does that mean this Barone guy is dumb? Not in the least. I had done a little background check on Don Barone and he knows sports. DB is one of the best sports writers in the business. But DB, like millions of other guys in the world, just doesn't know Jack Crap about the microscopic world of bass fishing.
Get in the boat, Barone.
We head across Champlain and pull into a bay on the east side of the lake that I want to check on this, the last day of practice. Pretty smooth ride and I take it easy, since I am sure this is the first time Barone has been in a bass rig. No WOT or jumping wakes, just a nice easy run across Champlain. Barone informs me after we are 15 miles from the ramp that, oh by the way, he has had both hips replaced. Huh?
So what, you don't want me to beat the hell out of you when the wind picks up this afternoon on the ride back across this monster pond? This little tidbit of info didn't come out when we were standing in the parking lot at the ramp because why?
I get busy exploring the milfoil in this bay and soon catch a small bass. Barone asks "Is that a bass?" Uh, yeah, that's a bass. This guy really doesn't know anything about bass fishing.
He didn't know anything about bass fishing, but I can say that he was willing to learn. Every reporter, writer, or journalist that I have ever been around who is considered "good" all have one common trait a desire to learn everything they can about the subject at hand.
Don Barone is no exception. Not only did he ask a lot of questions, but he asked the correct questions and even questions that made me stop and think about the whole process and concept of professional fishing. Barone wanted to know about bass fishing.
This wasn't just another reporter trying to make a check or on a deadline to throw a bone to his editor. This Barone guy wanted to know what was up with bass fising. Very impressive.
He wanted to know why I was using a particular bait. Why was I using it in this specific location. Why do we have "co-anglers" in the back of the boat? What is a co-angler? (that one stumped him, too).
How much money do you guys make? (laughed at the answer to that one, as he was not impressed with those numbers). What does the future hold for pro bass fishing? The kind of questions which someone who is truly interested in a subject would ask.
I also was able to grill him on a few subjects. It was interesting to see whose name he recognized from the world of fishing.
KVD? Uh, no.
Skeet Reese? No.
Ike? Wasn't he the President in the 50s?
Short? Yeah, he's the guy who hates co-anglers.
Bill Dance? Yes.
Roland Martin? Yes.
A few drops of rain began to fall (Barone called it a rain storm not hardly) and I had seen everything I needed to see in the way of fishing for the day. Time to get Mr. ESPN back across the pond without beating him up too bad. This should be a joy.
As we head through the Alburg Cut, I can see some pretty good waves have built up on the main lake. I tell Barone that it will be a little rough as we head down the east shore before we can turn and run across the troughs of the waves to get back to the ramp. Heading straight into the two-footers along the shore is pretty rough.
As we turn west and get to the middle of the lake, some of the waves are close to three-footers, but it's not too bad since we are running parallel to the waves. Not a bad ride for Champlain.
We get to the calm of the bay where the ramp is located and Kerry is there to pull us out of the water. Barone doesn't have a lot to say. Wants to know on a scale of 1-10 how rough that was. About a three.
When we get back in the parking lot, I notice that dude is white as a sheet. I'm talking seriously white. Pasty white. Tighty whitey white. Asks Kerry how bad it looks out there. Her answer? Maybe a four.
She asks Barone if the prop cleared the water. He asks, what's that?. The propeller. On the outboard. The thing that pushes you across the water.
What happens when the prop comes out of the water, he wants to know. That usually means it's rough, Barone.
So I was correct about this big time, sure 'nuff writer/reporter on two of the three counts of my original assumption. One, he lives in New York. Two, he didn't know anything about bass fishing. A candy ass? Not hardly. Don Barone can get in my boat any time he wants to spend a day on the water.
I am thrilled that he took the time to spend a few days in Plattsburgh to see what the Elite Series and the sport of bass fishing is all about. It's pretty cool to get some love from a figure outside the outdoor world. I was pretty impressed that DB wanted to see what this bass fishing thing is all about. Hopefully after five days around the Elite Series, Barone knows bass.
For more info on Kevin Short or to contact Kevin, check out his website at www.kfshort.com.