Throughout the 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series season, California pro Mike Reynolds has turned heads with his “These Colors Don’t Run” boat design, a tribute to the nation’s armed forces that features the four U.S. military seals.
But just last week, Reynolds received his biggest compliment when he was presented an American flag that was flown in his honor over the Multinational Corps Headquarters in Iraq.
BASS officials presented the flag to Reynolds during the second day’s weigh-in at the Empire Chase presented by Mahindra Tractors at New York’s Oneida Lake. Along with it was a letter from 1st Sgt. Stan Harvey, expressing appreciation for Reynolds’ tribute to the troops.
“When I first read of your boat wrap on the BASS website, I immediately requested a flag flown in your name over the Multi-National Corps Iraq HQ,” Harvey’s letter stated. “This is a program here in Iraq that is used by soldiers and units to recognize the support of the people back home …
“I and the troops here are proud to be served back home by patriots such as yourself and welcome the opportunity to give back to those that overwhelmingly support the troops over here.”
Upon receiving the flag and letter, an emotional Reynolds could barely speak to the crowd. “It’s almost unexplainable,” Reynolds said. “I had to go out to my boat by myself and just lose it for about five minutes after that. It hit me hard. To think that a guy in Iraq wasted one minute of his time to think about me, it’s hard to explain my feelings.”
Reynolds has received attention since the Battle on the Border presented by Mercury Marine, the first Elite Series event, on Lake Amistad in Texas. It started in earnest on the final day of competition when two airmen from nearby Laughlin Air Force Base followed Reynolds in their boat, waving an American flag and cheering wildly when Reynolds landed a fish.
“I had no idea it would be this big of a deal,” Reynolds said. “Every gas station I go into, I end up talking for 30 minutes with someone about it. When I drive down the highway, horns are honking constantly.”
Reynolds decided to wrap his boat with the military tribute last fall when he hadn’t yet secured a sponsorship. “I wanted to show my appreciation to my real sponsor, the people who make it possible for me to do what I do,” Reynolds said. “They make it possible for me to live my dream.”
Reynolds said the gift of the flag was a high point in an otherwise disappointing season. After finishing third at Lake Amistad, Reynolds has made only two other top-50 cuts.
Somehow, that doesn’t seem to matter.
“I’ve had a tough year with my fishing, but it’s also been the best year I’ve ever had as a pro,” Reynolds said. “I’m going to look back 20 years from now, and I won’t even remember winning Clarks Hill [during the 2005 season]. I’m going to remember this flag, though.
“It makes me feel like I did something right.”
A high school cheerleader – sort of
It’s doubtful that Elite Series angler Kevin Short of Mayflower, Ark., was really a cheerleader in high school. But he looked like one on Day 2 of the Elite Series’ Empire Chase on Oneida Lake in Syracuse last week.
As Short weighed in his 9-pound, 7-ounce limit, he opened his tournament jersey to reveal a maroon t-shirt bearing the P.V. Moore High School name, a school near Oneida Lake. He said he received such a warm welcome from the community that he wanted any locals interested to autograph the shirt so he could remember the experience.
Earlier in the week, Short was part of a parade held by the Syracuse Convention and Visitors Bureau to welcome Elite anglers into the area and kick off the tournament festivities. “That was the first parade I’ve ever been in, and I was really amazed when I saw hundreds of people show up,” Short said.
After he left the stage, throngs of fans approached him – but they didn’t offer their signatures. Instead, they asked for his.
Throwing it back
Though anglers don’t often have major mechanical problems with their state-of-the-art boats, hiccups sometimes do arise. Last week in Syracuse, Elite angler Paul Hirosky of Guy Mills, Pa., said he threw back a limit weighing about 14 pounds early in the morning on Day 2 because his livewell was not operating properly and he didn’t want to risk the possibility of receiving a penalty for expired fish.
But Hirosky didn’t call for a back-up boat and soon enough, his livewell was back on line. He ended up catching five new fish that weighed 11-2. He finished in 81st place.
In 2005, Mercury Marine Women’s Bassmaster Tour presented by Triton Boats angler Tammy Richardson of Amity, Ark., experienced a run of bad luck. In June, Richardson and her husband, Bobby, lost their home and most of their possessions to a fire caused by an electrical problem.
Shortly after, thieves broke into a storage shed containing the Richardson’s remaining possessions, stealing everything that was left. “It’s very frustrating when you are at your lowest point and then someone kicks you when you are down,” Richardson said. “We lost everything.”
Fast forward to 2006. The Richardsons have bounced back – big time. Tammy’s well-documented win in the season-opening tournament of the WBT was just the beginning.
Richardson finished in a respectable 11th place at the second WBT event on Lake Lewisville in Texas and is in second place in the Toyota Women’s Bassmaster Tour Angler of the Year race. The top 12 anglers in the points standings advance to the Women’s Bassmaster Tour Championship on Lake Mitchell in Alabama, Feb. 22-25, 2007.
In perhaps the most exciting moment of the year, Richardson this month was nominated for an ESPY in the Best Angler category. She joins stiff competition - Bassmaster Elite Series pros Preston Clark, Greg Hackney and Ish Monroe.
“I’m just proud ESPN nominated a lady,” Richardson told The Arkansas Democrat Gazette. “That’s a big step for female anglers, and if I win, I want to accept it on behalf of all the other ladies (on the WBT).”
ESPN televises the 14th annual industry-wide sports celebration of the ESPYS Sunday, July 16 at 9 p.m. ET.
EOBS tournament rescheduled
Due to unsafe conditions that currently exist near Vicksburg, Miss., on the Mississippi River, the ESPN Outdoors Bassmaster Series presented by Advance Auto Parts tournament originally scheduled for July 16 will be moved to Aug. 20. The tournament – in the South Central region and Big River division - will now take place on Lake Ferguson and anglers will launch and weigh-in at City Front Ramp out of Greenville, Miss.
Registration remains open for the event, and BASS will provide a refund to registered participants who can no longer compete. Those interested in the refund must contact BASS by Monday, July 31.
BASS is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, sanctioning more than 20,000 events through the BASS Federation Nation annually. Guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans, BASS sets the standard for credibility, professionalism, sportsmanship and conservation, as it has for nearly 40 years.
BASS stages bass fishing tournaments for every skill level and culminates with the CITGO Bassmaster Classic. Through its clubs, youth programs, aquatic resource advocacy, magazine publishing and multimedia platforms, BASS offers the industry's widest array of services and support to its nearly 550,000 members. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208. To join BASS, call 1-877-BASS-USA or visit http://www.bassmaster.com.