Karma Takes a Backseat

By Bruce Callis  – May 9 2017

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The 2017 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Elite at Ross Barnett was another exciting event. It saw another rookie lay claim to victory, a hard fought victory on a lake that wasn’t always nice and weather that threaten to claim the finals. Dustin Connell held off hard charging Kevin VanDam to win by 2 pounds and 3 ounces, But victory wasn’t assured, especially in his mind. For those who got to watch Bass Live, you saw what we don’t normally get to see, what so many leaders might be experiencing as they make their way into weigh-in.
Day one saw Brandon Card take the lead over the field with a 22 pound 14 ounce bag, edging ahead of Bobby Lane Jr. by 2 pounds. Dustin was in 6th place with 19 pounds 12 ounces, 3 pounds and 2 ounces behind the leader. On day 2, Dustin caught a smaller bag, 16 pounds 11 ounces, but managed to take the lead by a mere 1 pound 12 ounces over Mark Menendez. Day 3 was full of movement. Kevin VanDam moved from 17th place all the way to 3rd on the strength of a 5 fish limit weighing 18 lbs 7 oz, placing him 5 pounds 8 ounces out of first. Keith Poche had a 15 lb 6 oz bag that moved him from 7th up to 2nd place, 5 lbs 6 oz behind the leader, Dustin Connell who held onto 1st with a nice 15 pound 7 ounce bag. Then mother nature threw a curve ball at the anglers, forcing the cancellation of Championship Sunday and setting up a rare Monday Championship.
After a day of waiting, second guessing, and facing nerves that had played out what if many times, the top 12 anglers launched on Championship Monday. A field of top names set their sights on the big prize and taking down the rookie. Dustin did not find the big ones he wanted, but he did find a nice kicker and headed into the ramp with a 12 pound 15 ounce bag, assuring himself that he didn’t have enough to win. He was sure that one of his competitors had caught an 18 pound bag to beat him. The king tried, but Kevin did manage a sweet 16 lb 4 oz bag, putting him 2 pounds and 3 ounces shy of knocking Dustin from the stage and claim victory.
For some, Dustin Connell is an unknown name, just another rookie trying to make it big. For others, especially those who listen to the BassCast Radio show, Dustin is more then that. The 1st Elite tournament this year saw another 1st year competitor take victory. Jacob Wheeler overcame boat problems to win, but not without the help of Dustin Connell who allowed him to fish from his boat, sharing the trolling motor and more. Some may say he was building good karma, but you can’t change who a person is inside.
You could ask anyone who knows Dustin, and they will say, that’s just Dustin being Dustin. A down to earth young man, who like so many of today’s youth finding their way in the fishing industry. Juggling books and fishing as they make their way through college. Bass fishing is not an NCAA sanctioned sport, it is a club. They aren’t given a new boat, tons of free gear, or a free ride. They have to work hard. Unlike some, they don’t get a scholarship and then get to leave early to be drafted by a professional team. Those million dollars aren’t waiting for them and it will be a long time before they will ever see it through fishing.
Karma sounds great, but being good, having a caring soul goes far beyond karma. We know many Dustin’s, the fishing community is full of them. They give, not because of a reward of victory, but because that is who they are. Karma takes a backseat.
“Do yourself a favor, take a kid fishing!” Make a memory to last a lifetime!


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