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Examiner
  • Waters savors memorable weekend at Bassmaster Classic

  • Two weekends ago, Independence resident Tom Waters served as a marshal in the Bassmaster Classic on Grand Lake in Grove, Okla. Waters said participating in the sport’s biggest tournament was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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  • Two weekends ago, Independence resident Tom Waters served as a marshal in the Bassmaster Classic on Grand Lake in Grove, Okla. Waters said participating in the sport’s biggest tournament was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
    Of course, there’s nothing keeping Waters from marshaling in the future. But after three of the most memorable days of his life, he figures there’s no point messing with perfection.
    “I know I could try it again in the future,” Waters said, “but I probably won’t. This was such a fun, exciting experience for me that I don’t think I want to try to top that.”
    In December, Waters filled out an online application to serve as a marshal in the tournament, which pays $500,000 to the champion. He didn’t expect anything to come from it, but in January found out that he’d been approved.
    As marshal, Waters spent three days riding along with some of the country’s best fishermen essentially serving as a referee. His duties required him to make sure the anglers followed all the rules and didn’t use any illegal aids or catching methods. He also sent reports of catches via Bass Trakker, which was sent to the war room where the information was assembled and broadcast to thousands watching the tournament on the Internet.
    Waters was happy to do it, even though that meant a couple of frigid mornings. On the first day, Waters boarded a boat with Andy Bravence, who qualified for the invitational by winning a Bass Pro Shops Open tournament. The day began with a temperature reading of 21 degrees. As they blasted off for Bravence’s favorite fishing hole at 70 miles per hour, the wind chill plummeted to minus-30. Waters was bundled up in six layers of clothes, but after standing around in a boat for hours on end, it didn’t do much good.
    “The first three or four hours were about as cold as I’ve ever been,” Waters said. “But I knew it at the time and I know it in retrospect, that was part of the adventure of the whole thing. I can say, ‘I was there in 2013 when the wind-chill was 30 below and I survived and I saw those guys do what they did. That was cool.’”
    As a fishing enthusiast, riding shotgun with some of the most skilled anglers in the world was heaven for Waters. On the tournament’s second day, he was paired with Terry Scroggins, who is a professional fisherman who finished third in the Angler of the Year standings in 2012.
    While Waters had a job to do, he said he was also able to study the techniques each angler used. He said that taught him two things. First, even the best fishermen have off days, which he realized after Bravence and Scroggins brought in only one keeper apiece.
    Page 2 of 2 - “Those pros are just as human as the rest of us amateur weekend fishermen,” said Waters, who was paired with newcomer Josh Wagy on the third day. “They make mistakes and they get tangles in their lines and they get frustrated.  And they also don’t catch many fish sometimes either.”
    But while he saw those pros struggle, he also came to realize just how skilled they are.
    “The skills they use on the same equipment that I have just made me want to get better,” he said. “They can take lures and put them in places that there’s no way I could get it cast to. And they work them in a different way. You can just tell that all the practice and that time on the water made a big difference for them.”
    Each day ended at the BOK Center in Tulsa where live weigh-ins were held and the leaderboards updated. On the final day, Cliff Pace was announced on the winner and Waters had seat near the front row as confetti covered the stage.
    Waters has been a bass fisherman for about six years and says he has no aspirations of becoming a professional. But nonetheless, he was inspired by watching the nation’s best anglers work their craft.
    “It certainly made me want to become a better fisherman,” Waters said.
    Follow Shawn Garrison on Twitter: @GarrisonEJC
     

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