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FishermansPost.com - June 14, 2007 - page 33

 

KMT Journals

by Mark Henderson

 

UNSUNG HEROES

 

It is not often that a Rudy Reuttiger gets carried off the field by his adoring teammates.  You remember the movie “Rudy,” in which Sean Astin starred in the life story of the unheralded, wannabe, walk-on football player at Notre Dame.   He was the guy who slept in the maintenance facility, picked up the towels, mowed grass, carried other player’s shoulder pads, and ultimately, became a human blocking dummy just to become an element in his passion.

 

Personal glory was never his goal.  However, the desire to be part of a team to make it the best it could be was.  All this was done for love of the sport and his teammates.  As I try to get over my sniffles, my mind turns to all of the “pit crew” tasks that my family members perform before, during, and after tournament time.  I am sure that many competition teams are similar in this regard.

 

Very little is more heart warming than seeing the “unsung heroes” receiving the recognition they deserve.  Unfortunately, the appreciation they gather is often not frequent enough.  However, the pride and satisfaction taken from the accomplishments of the entity they helped to build, is as much internal as the receipt of any external salutation.

 

King mackerel tournament fishing is no different than any of the major sports in this regard.  Those who perform the difficult jobs behind the scenes such as being the lock-down defender on the other team’s leading scorer, are often times just as, if not more, valuable than their team’s star small forward.

 

Number “23” (Michael Jordan) led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships during his illustrious career. But don’t forget, two players who stayed mostly in anonymity while playing with Jordan, John Paxon and Steve Kerr, hit the big shots to “put the nail in the coffin” in two of the championships.  Only one person can wear “23” on each team, but every member has their own number that completes the unit.  My Liquid Fire Fishing Team is a perfect example of this effort.  We have some team members who rarely ever participate in the actual tournament fishing, but their efforts throughout the preceding week are invaluable.

 

Like most other team captains, I am just a regular layman who holds a full-time position as the Fixed Operations Director at Stevenson Automotive in Onslow County, NC.  My days are filled with the operation of the service and parts departments for five stores.  Therefore, it is difficult for me to dedicate much of my time to the preparatory tasks that are required to fish a tournament.  Fortunately, my parents, sister, brother-in-law, wife, niece and children take care of most of the “dirty jobs.”

 

One of the most challenging of these chores is that of catching and grinding one of the smelliest, oiliest saltwater baitfish (menhaden) into a pasty, unappetizing fish attractant – chum!  They have assured me that this would make a great episode for the Discovery Channel’s, Dirty Jobs, hosted by Mike Rowe.  Each of our dedicated team constituents has taken a turn at loading up the “bait boat” and heading out for a weekday morning adventure of locating, cast netting, and mincing a load of these spunky critters.

 

While this is one of the least glamorous tasks of their laborious week, it is less time consuming than their willingness to travel to each tournament registration and weigh-in.  For me, this is the most beneficial duty that my family members perform.  Depending on the location of the tournament we choose to fish, this can result in more than one-half day of travel just to sign up for the tournament and gather information at the captain’s meetings.

 

Tournament fishing is not only expensive, but time consuming as well.  During the week before a tournament, team members fill their days with responsibilities such as: checking the ceramic eyes on our TICA live bait rods to ensure they don’t have any chips that could cause line chaffing and tying our kingfish rigs with Terminator Titanium leader, Gamakatsu, black nickel, treble hooks, and 50-pound SPRO stainless steel swivels.

 

In addition to these tasks of manual dexterity, some team members’ responsibilities include ensuring that team shirts, hats, and tournament gear are organized.  Preparing, completing, and verifying a list of necessary and required items like a float plan, fishing licenses, and equipment manuals is of vital importance.  Gathering life vests, throw cushions, fire extinguishers, flares, bow lines, and fenders are just a few of the items that are checked for their operational status.

 

While some members are assigned these specific duties, others are saddled with making sure all electronics: depth sounders, GPS/chartplotter units, VHF radios, radar, and cell phone signals are in good operating condition.

 

Sleepless nights of wishful thinking not only affect the boat hands, but also members that want us so desperately to perform well, have difficulty grabbing uninterrupted “shut-eye.”  After a long evening of preparation, they remain in a state of partial slumber that keeps them from reaching the REM stage of rest.  Their hopes of getting an early telephone call to rush to the weigh-in for photos and cheering thwart any hopes of relaxation.  Wow, can they cheer!  Trust me; no one on our team has difficulty with amplified vocal exuberance.

 

You know team members are completely engrossed in the effort when on Sunday morning after a tournament, everyone awakens putting on t-shirts, shorts, and flip-flops (affectionately known as “slaps”) just to clear and clean all the gear, wash and detail the Contender, fresh-water flush our Yamahas, and spray down the trailer just so this behavior can be repeated the following week.

 

In fact, I awoke one post-tournament morning to attack the cleaning chores only to find that my sister and daughter had actually unloaded and cleaned the boat at 2:30 a.m.  This made an unproductive tournament outing much easier to digest.  Maybe we are just plain crazy!  Hmm… are “dedication” and “nuts” synonymous?  Shh…I’m still not sure they weren’t just trying to find Joshua’s hiding place for the Snickers bars, though.  (The column in the April 26, 2007 issue describes this fiasco.)

 

Preparing sandwiches and snacks, filling the fish boxes with ice, and loading all of the aforementioned items onto the boat are no small tasks.  This is truly the essence of tournament fishing and involving family members and friends in our growing sport.  These are the “associates” who should be thanked, and thanked often.  Their undeniable efforts are the mortar between the building blocks of successful teams.

 

I wrote about internet fishing websites in a previous issue.  As I navigate through these sites on the world-wide-web, I have stumbled across some impressive KMT team websites that embellish accolades to those behind the scenes who have helped build their stage.  As I read these biographies of some of the team members, it made me ponder the true importance of these responsibilities.

 

So, my hat’s off to all of those who work long hours preparing the stage so that the anglers and captains get the “glory” and excitement of “taking one to the scales” – THANK YOU!  All of your efforts and time spent are greatly appreciated.  Each of you should be lofted onto our shoulders and transported off the field just as Rudy was.  Although, it must be noted, should we try to carry you off the “field” in our sport, we would be wearing snorkels and flippers instead of helmets and cleats.

 

Mark Henderson is the captain of the Cape Carteret, NC-based Liquid Fire Fishing Team sponsored by: Intreptid Powerboats, Yamaha Outboards, Cannon Downriggers, Accurate Fishing Products, AmeraTrail Custom Trailers, Simrad, Best Buy Marine, Optima Batteries, Yo-Zuri, Ocean-Tamer Bean Bags, Sportsman’s Toy Store, Crystal Coast Graphics, SPRO/Gamakatsu, Pro Chips, Columbia Sportswear, Costa Del Mar, Lee’s Livebait and Stevenson Automotive Group.

 
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