Dr. Todd Attends the Bassmaster Classic (Part II)
By Dr. Todd E.A. Larson
NOTE: This series was written about the 2011 Bassmaster Classic in New Orleans. The 2012 Classic is in Shreveport, and kicks off on Friday!
PART II: INTO THE MOUTH OF THE BASS
It is early Thursday afternoon and I am circling the New Orleans Convention Center when I see a sign that says “Bassmaster Exhibitors” and an arrow. Gleefully, I get in line behind Wally Marshall, the Crappie King, with his massive custom painted truck and trailer. Suddenly, I am conspicuously aware I am driving a Saturn SUV with no sponsorship logo. You may want to check the replay, but I believe I’m the only person at the Bassmaster Classic driving a Saturn.
I also realize that I’m likely the only person in the state of Louisiana wearing a sweater vest.
I follow the Walleye King, who thrusts a piece of paper out the window. A security guard waves him on. I do not have any pieces of paper to wave. I pull up and am politely told I must go get a bill of lading from the Port Authority to unload my books. The guard explains I have to turn around and drive straight ahead at the end of the street, where I will find a friendly gentleman who will take care of all of my paperwork for me.
I imagine that’s what he probably said, because he is speaking so quickly he might as well have given me directions in Farsi. I am more lost than ever. The huge line forming behind me is growing impatient so I turn around and head to anywhere but there. When in doubt, my father always says, go with what you know. At this point I only know how to slowly circle the New Orleans Convention Center, looking lost and confused. So I continue driving slowly around the New Orleans Convention Center.
The good news is that I am clearly the lap leader at the Bassmaster Classic.
I call Glen Lau, who arrived earlier to set up his booth, and explain that I have no idea how to get a bill of lading. He says if I pick him up out front of the Expo he’ll take me over, which he does. He’s driven 900 miles himself from his beloved Florida home, and has already done this. He gets us all straightened out, I eventually get a bill of lading, and we are allowed behind the Convention Center to the loading docks where we can disembark the books.
“That’s a beautiful boat,” Glen says, pointing to one of the incredible bass boats being pulled onto the Expo floor. We’ve parked next to a dozen big trucks, all unloading huge boxes of tackle and associated items. The look of pain on the guy next to me as he manhandles a massive box on to a hand truck reminds me that we have a lot of books to unload, and that books are incredibly heavy.
I always say that books are the safest thing to travel with, as you can be nearly 100% certain that, even if you forget to lock your car, when you come back in the morning your car may be gone, but you will find the books stacked where the car used to be.
I sigh as I reach for the dolly in the SUV. Glen looks out at me from under his wide-brim hat, his steely eyes dancing. “Oh, don’t do that. We’ll get someone to bring them over for us.” Before I can respond, he then goes off looking for someone to talk to about getting an electric cart. I look around and everyone else is unloading on their own. I figure we’re wasting time.
Five minutes later, a big cart zips up with two burly young men, and behind them is Glen with a big smile on his face. The two even take all the books out of the car. I stand and watch in awe. So do a number of other vendors who are stuck unloading their own trucks.
If you can’t already tell, Glen’s done this kind of thing before, even if this is his first Expo. People instinctively like him.
We are told to meet the cart at our booth, so I walk on to the floor of the Bassmaster Expo for the first time.
Words have not been invented yet that can describe your first moment on the floor of the Bassmaster Classic Expo. The sensation is overwhelming – entire semi trucks filled with boats, motors, and fishing tackle of every possible description. To my left is the Evinrude display. Although Thursday is set up day, and they are still working on it, the exhibit is accompanied by so many tables and chairs emblazoned with the Evrinrude logo that it looks like a mobile Starbucks.
Glen must have felt like he was walking with a little kid set loose in a toy factory. “There’s Jann’s/Netcraft!” I blurt. “There’s Carrot Stix. Have you ever fished one? Ooh! There’s Hildebrandt! I wrote an article about them.” Glen is unflappable even in the face of my annoying exuberance.
Thanks to our burly pals, it takes all of five minutes to unload the books at Glen’s modest booth. I look around and immediately feel like a fingerling let loose in the Bass Pro tank. I think to myself that tomorrow, when the public comes in, will be a very interesting day…and I secretly wonder if I’m prepared for it.
As it turns out, I shouldn’t have worried. Nothing can actually prepare you adequately for this kind of experience.
After meandering around the Expo floor for a couple of hours, I find myself standing in the hotel lobby, where I suddenly realize I’m surrounded by literally hundreds of perfectly made up women decked out in more jewelry than a Macy’s mannequin.
I realize that bass anglers are not the only ones holding a national convention in New Orleans this weekend...
TOMORROW: THE BEST LAID PLANS OF BASS AND MEN
-- Dr. Todd