by Rachel Vickers
Secretary and Active Chair Member for the GSLFF, Field Writer/Expert The Angler Magazine

In every persons’ life, there are a handful of defining moments, I would like to share one of mine. Hopefully many of you were also able to attend, or at least follow the Bassmasters “Elite Series” 2017 in the Village of Waddington N.Y. Village Staff planned diligently since January to welcome back a record breaking crowd of over 30,000 people. With attendance equivalent to a concert at SPAC. The ESPN2 media coverage that follows the “Elite Circuit” is made up of a small army of mobile media centers equipped with working staff, that set up at each location along the tournament trail. They provide our Elite Pro-Bass anglers “The Red Carpet” treatment they deserve, since they have earned to be invited to compete in what is viewed as the “highest level of professional bass fishing tournaments.” When I learned that The Angler wanted me to help with coverage of the final 2 days of the event, and I could be part of this media army, I was out fishing with my father on Sacandaga. When I asked my dad if I should go? We both knew what my answer would be. I was going…. with no accommodation plans. It was already late Thursday night, and the tournament had started. I knew if I was going to make it there for day 3 & 4 of the series I needed some help. I decided to ask one of my most trusted friends, Aaron Bulluck to throw caution to the wind, and come with me. We arrived in Waddington in the early evening just after the Day 2 weigh in finished. As we pulled into the local gas station both of us immediately noticed the towns atmosphere. Calm, clean, upbeat, and the towns people and visiting spectators were polite, easygoing and hospitable. When we met Frank, he said- “Glad you made it…Its your world up here” He was right, I felt completely comfortable in my element, surrounded by like-minded people. Frank gave us our all access media passes, our “Golden Ticket” to all things Bassmaster Elite had to offer! Frank also asked where I was staying, and I told him we had not crossed that bridge yet. He tossed me The Angler Mag and pointed out that Olivia at 315-323-4138 would accommodate you short notice. He was right and we got settled in, even did some fishing. Now that is Upstate NY hospitality!

We woke up to sunny skies, and warm temperatures. The weigh-ins of Day 3 were, nothing less than surreal. I made my way back-stage, behind the cameras, to the weigh in station. The Pro-Anglers started to line up their boats, and line up with their live bags. This is where the gravity of my situation started to sink in, I was about to come face to face with The WOLRDS Best Professional fishermen. I paid close attention as I listened to the Pros talk about their day on the water while they moved with their fish thru aerated bins that have a mild sedative in the water to keep the fish from being stressed during the wait. It is a common practice also, to use these powders for fish hatchery spawning. After weigh-ins are completed, and a short commentary is done with each remaining angler. The fish are placed in “recovery” tanks on a pontoon boat, and brought back to the water to be released. The task to transport the fish back is given to the Kids in the JR Bassmasters Club. It helps them learn how to handle fish, and gain an understanding of the importance of conservation. The commentator then announces the Pro-Anglers rankings and standings, in a nicely directed entertaining venue. ESPN does their interviews with the top 10 on the leaderboard, as they make their way off the platform. The pros will return the next morning and do it all over again. I really give so much respect to these professional anglers, they endure harsh conditions daily, sun included. The Waddington tournament was very special to one legendary angler. Kevin VanDam, who is ranked #1 in the world! KVD commanded a record breaking weight of 90lb-3oz.! This earned the all-time Leading $ winner in Pro-Bass Fishing history his 3rd win on the St. Lawrence River and a $100,000 prize. In 1987, KVD made his 1st professional Debut here on the river in St. Lawrence, and now 27 years later! When asked how it felt to be an Elite Series Champion again, “Wow, I’m speechless, It was my 1st tournament, it’s my 300th event, and 24th win. It’s unbelievable!” KVD said. Brock Mosley had more than an impressive 2nd place finish. He was the only angler other than KVD to boat more than 20lbs on each day!

The following weekend I had an awesome lake trout trip planned for Lake Champlain, but on the Vermont side. Since the Bassmasters “Elite Series” was going to be in Plattsburg the same weekend, I enthusiastically followed up coverage by taking the 15- min ferry ride to NY. The first pro I ran into was Brandon Palaniuk who scored third in both the Plattsburgh and Waddington events. History was made again on Sunday at Plattsburgh, when a record breaking come from behind victory, 19th place at the start of day 3, Aaron Martens the veteran angler from Alabama, took the Plattsburgh Elite Series Championship home with him. Martens is currently ranked 12th in the World. Aaron was accompanied by his wife, Leslie and their two children, Jordan & Spencer for this historic win. This time the faces and names were all familiar so it didn’t seem so overwhelming. I was greeted by familiar faces from the past week. The Bassmasters staff was extremely accommodating and friendly. We still were able to fish the entire day Saturday, we boated 38 early season Lake Trout with 21 under my name. I am going back up this coming weekend to try and beat my personal best. The last two weeks have been some of the most memorable of my life, and I have a feeling like I did about Waddington. That this is just the beginning. We are in initial planning to be covering the Bassmasters Classic on Lake Hartwell Feb. 16th in Greenville,SC for The Angler Mag and Reel Rascal Reel Covers Great Times.