Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Elite anglers: The blue-collar work ethic – By Don Barone – Story


Elite anglers: The blue-collar work ethic

Shaw Grigsby shows us what a 23-pound, $10,000 bag looks like.


“I’ll take the long night, impossible odds …”

Dateline: East of Nowhere

I am an electronic journalist, without electronics.

I have a 4G phone.

I have a 4G MiFi thing.

I have all the Gs you can buy.

None of the Gs, not a darn one, knows I’m here. I’m thinking a week of rebates, Mr. Verizon boss dude.

All of my columns are late; I would gladly explain that to my several thousand bosses … but I have no bars either.

If by some chance you have some extra bars, or Gs, can you get in your car and bring them to me?

Dear Jim, The New Boss Guy: Yesterday’s column is in the mail … I won’t put the 45¢ for the stamp on my expense form since the expense form stopped adding the POSTAGE column in 2002 (or whenever they found that Internet floating around out there).

Here’s how an electronic journalist without electronics files stories out here East of Nowhere.

I get an idea: So far that’s pretty easy.

I get a song: Again not too hard since I have 2,543 Items, 6.5 Days, 12.77 GB of the things in my iTunes folder.

I plug in the Sennheiser HD 555 Headphones … hit the loud button up top there of the keyboard until it stops making lines.

I start writing.

I finish writing.

The wheels come off. Because the moment I click send, that #@!*&#! spinning beach ball thing in the MacBook starts happening.

I go take a shower.

Still spinning.

I make lunch/dinner.

Still spinning.

I eat lunch/dinner.

Still spinning.

I pick up the laptop and my alleged 4G MiFi thing, go out to the 4Runner, get in and drive 7.2 miles to the end of the road, turn left into a gas station, park over by the broken free air machine thing, click send one more time …

… gone in a flash.

Buy a bottle of Milo’s Sweet Tea and head back past the Nuclear Plant and turn right at on our street, park, walk inside as Paul Elias and Shaw Grigsby, my roommates for the 2012 Bassmaster Elite Series season, look at me and start giggling …

… because I’m an electronic journalist without electronics.

True story.

Send me a SASE, I’ll print this story out and mail it to you.


” … keeping my eye to the keyhole … “

Paul Elias.

Shaw Grigsby.


I have been referring to the three of us as the Grumpy Old Men … and that’s not entirely true … two of them are not grumpy at all … one of me, has my moments.

To be honest, we are more like The Odd Couple Plus One.

Two Oscar Madisons.

And one Shaw … .er … Felix Ungar.

Somehow, in the morning, Shaw walks out of the bedroom in a pressed shirt, tucked in, clean pants, and hair darn near “Werewolves of London” perfect.

Paul walks out in boxers and no shirt.

I walk out in bare feet, camo sweat pants, a cut up ragged-arse sleeping tee shirt, Einstein hair and stinking as you would imagine a 40-some-years-of-Margarita-drinking dude would smell like.

If we were buildings, two of us would be condemned.

One would be the “Model Unit.”

The “Model Unit,” is the only one smiling.

Shaw bounds around the kitchen fixing healthy food stuff to take on the boat.

Paul is also fixing healthy food stuff to take on the boat, but there is very little, if any bounding, as for the 6th morning in a row he discovers he forgot to either put the coffee grounds, or the water, in the coffee pot which is now going through its air cycle (what a coffeemaker does when you turn it on and hit brew when it lacks one, or both things needed to in fact ‘brew’ anything).

I’m sitting at my 0G laptop pretty much thinking it was a bad time to give up donuts.

It is 5 AM in the morning.

The workday has begun.

Yesterday’s workday ended at 10 PM.

As will today’s.

“You tired,” says Paul, who is tired, “you practice 12-13 hours a day, from sunrise to sunset, you come back to the place, eat fast, shower fast, then go out and get your tackle ready for the next day.”

Tournament days for these guys are even worse … we are up at 4:30 AM … at the boat ramp by 5:30-5:45 AM … they launch and fish until around 3:30 PM … come in for the weigh-in which was at 4 PM … get out of the tournament area around 5:30-6 PM … head 14 miles back to the place … eat … shower … get the boat secured … do the tackle stuff … go to bed, usually between 9:30 and 10 PM.

Again, Paul: “Tournament days are physical but they can wear you out mentally … you have to keep thinking … changing … always thinking about your next move, always looking for the big-un that could be a day changer for you.”

I have never in my life been around this kind of work ethic.

SEVENTEEN-HOUR days are the normal.

Seven days a week, are the normal.

And, frankly, these facts are not debatable … .because I’m there WITH THEM; I see it first hand, I live it first hand.

You want to be an Elite, you darn well had better buckle up your working stiff workbelt.

Because, if you are a slouch, if you expect handouts from someone, you come here with that attitude and the only thing handed to you will be … your head.

” … if it takes all that to be just what I am … “

It is 5:15 AM, Day Two of the St Johns Showdown tournament.

Day One was not a good day for my roommates.

Shaw is making a jug of iced tea to take on his boat, “db, I barely slept a wink last night.”

“I know,” says Paul who shares a room with Shaw. “Boy, I know.”

Paul is making coffee and is about to take a shower.

Both, independent of each other, has said this to me, “I think I blew it, blew the tournament.”

Friday morning blues.

I’m sitting at my laptop watching the ever spinning beach ball, I say nothing.

Been here, done that before with athletes. When the wide receiver drops the ball in the end zone, he doesn’t need to hear anything from me, doesn’t need to be asked why, don’t need no advice either.

Being quiet is the best thing I can say. Let them work it out, work it through their mind, through their heart.

So I sit and sit silent, except I’m thinking of this story, thinking of what I would do if I were them, but I stay silent.

Except, I softly type this:

S … W … I … N … G.

Swing boys, swing for the fences … For 50 guys, Friday morning of a tournament day is the 4th quarter, the bottom of the 9th, turn 4 … you hold back now, you do the same thing that you did that got you in this situation … you not going to be in the boat tomorrow.

You be in the stands.

The Spectator Elite.

” … well, I’m gonna be a blue collar man … “


24 hours.

Same time, same place.

Saturday morning.

You want to know how much this sport means to these guys, I’m going to tell you exactly what is going on.

Paul gave it his best shot … this is a Bassmaster Classic winner, winner of 6 events, 41 Top 10 finishes, 7,479 pounds of bass caught, almost a MILLION dollars won … and he is still in bed.

Don’t need to get up.

He didn’t have a good Friday, had a worse Friday night.

Later, when he gets up and comes out of the bedroom, he has the look on his face of the Little League Baseball player who dropped the easy out, who had the game in his glove, and lost it.

“You can’t mess around out there, you’ve got to be working on your game, everyday, every minute.”

The voice of a champion, no blame on anyone but himself.

“But db, you have to keep a positive attitude, positive that you can do this, that your decisions are right, that you have the confidence, if not … you’re toast.”

An hour or so before this, I’m sitting at the kitchen table, laptop up and running, little beach ball thing spinning.

Shaw is a tornado in a blue fishing shirt.

First gets the coffee, sips, puts it down, picks it up, sips, down … up … down … then he starts making his iced tea, “regular on the boat, sweet tea off the boat,” then he fills two big plastic storage bags with store-bought ice.

In between all of that he, pulls a frozen Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwich out of a box and wraps it in a paper towel for the upcoming nuking of the food, takes another sip of coffee, puts the paper towel wrapped breakfast sandwich in the freezer and then comes over and sits with me at the kitchen table.

After a minute or so he says, “db … I put the sandwich in the freezer instead of the microwave, didn’t I?”

I just nod, yes.

Shaw, he smiles.

After Day One of the tournament, Shaw was in 88th place with 7 pounds 11 ounces.

Come Friday, he walked on stage with a bag of bass weighing 23 pounds, 1 ounce. It was a $10,000 dollar bag.

From 88th to 15th. 35 places above 50th place.

50th place, the Money Line. Above it, you make some cash; below, and this tournament was paid for by you … and all your credit cards.

From going home, from staying in bed, to fishing another day.

Which is what it is all about,

Fishing another day.

Do well on Saturday, you get to fish Sunday.

Do well Sunday … you win.

You win, and every 17-hour day is worth every minute.

A work ethic win.

Chalk one up for the working stiff.


” … keeping my mind on a better life
where happiness is only a heartbeat away.”

Blue Collar Man


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