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Classic Comments

Tuesday, March 7, 2006
by Ray Scott

Everything and everyone lived up to the Classic reputation at the 2006 Citgo Bassmaster Classic in Orlando, including the magnificent Florida bass that allowed anglers to shatter longstanding records right and left.

The healthy, robust fish were a perfect symbol of the equally exciting and robust Classic event. It was a wonderfully positive event marred for me only by the antics of a single fisherman, which I will comment on later, because too many good things take precedence.

For me, the highlight of the Classic was presenting the 2006 BASS Lifetime Achievement Award to one of the greatest men in modern bass fishing history – Bob Cobb. Without him I don’t think we’d be here today chattering about bass fishing – certainly not in the same way.

I would gladly share all of my laurels with this man, because he helped me to shape and guide and mold BASS and the modern sport of bass fishing, not only as the longtime (and first professional) editor of Bassmaster Magazine, but also as the creator, producer, writer and director of THE Bassmasters television series. Many know well his dee-jay voice and his Hemingway whiskers.

Actually his accomplishments go far beyond Bassmaster Magazine and THE Bassmasters, and I look forward to sharing his story with you next month.

Ray Scott thinks that too much airtime and ink was devoted to Mike Iaconelli's blow-up at the Bassmaster Classic.

Another of the bright spots of the Classic was the Federation Nation, especially after all the recent hype and media hysteria. And especially after the energy-sapping negativity of the past couple years. You could feel the change in the atmosphere.

It was smiles, a fresh spirit, enthusiasm and, above all, a positive attitude. BASS welcomed new blood and cherished old ties. Twenty-eight states were represented in spite of the recent split and more states were in the pipeline even as the Classic took place. I have no doubt the Federation Nation will be up to full representation in a short period of time.

People ask me how I feel about the split. I’m philosophical. When I organized the Federation back in 1973, I gave it roots and I gave it wings. There are individuals in the TBF I love and admire and will always wish them well and be their friend.

As in any longstanding relationship, partners can have truly irreconcilable differences and divorce can be a good and necessary thing. More important, both parties can go on to productive and happy futures. I certainly think this could be the case here.

We’ve got a new marriage now and like all the experts say, it’s something both sides have to work on. BASS especially must continue to earn and to deserve the partnership. Mutual respect. No taking anything or anyone for granted.

What’s more, as I pointed out to several people at the Classic, the Federation existed for over 30 years with no competition. As an unapologetic capitalist, I think competition is both natural and healthy. So let both TBF and the Federation Nation work for ALL of bass fishing and ALL bass anglers.

As I said at the beginning of this column, the 2006 Classic was marred by a single event – the ridiculous tantrum thrown by Mike Iaconelli. It’s not my intention to pile on here because the guy has apologized and is taking a hit for his actions. He has paid and will continue to pay for his unsportsmanlike conduct. As many before him have learned, the public is quick to forget your achievements and remember your screw-ups. This is a screw-up even for "Bad Boy Ike."

I’d have to say my main emotion was one of anger. Anger at the ink and airtime wasted on this outburst and taken away from the real stories of the Classic. As far as I’m concerned, his actions were a slap in the face to BASS and all the other anglers before him who worked to make bass fishing what it is today. I’m talking about two generations of pros who have exemplified sportsmanship on and off the water. Pros who are role models for anglers everywhere, especially kids.

Please don’t tell me about passion and about entertaining “theatrics.” I understood those concepts back in 1967 when I held my first tournament and all those years I worked to make bass fishing not only a recognized competitive sport but a genuine “spectator sport,” i.e. entertaining. I can tell you every guy who makes it to the winner’s circle not only understands passion, he lives it.

The bottom line is this: Mike Iaconelli is NOT the face of bass fishing. All the other great anglers, all the other positive events that transpired in Orlando are the real face of bass fishing.

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