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A Field of Streams

It’s the dream of every weekend warrior to go one-on-one with Michael Jordan, to take at a swing at a Curt Schilling split-finger fastball, or to catch a TD pass in a Redskins-Cowboys game. Fantasy camps and celebrity events give the armchair QB a chance to take the field with athletes; but never are the amateurs allowed to take the field under game conditions. In most cases, the “pros” are retired or not really the high profile players.

The BASSMASTER Tournament trail, the world's most prestigious professional bass fishing tournament circuit, however, not only allows the fans to fish with the pros, but does so under tournament conditions. “It allows our fans the opportunity to compete and be in direct contact with their heroes, to learn from them…it’s our way of educating fishermen and promoting the sport of bass fishing.”, said B.A.S.S. (Bass Anglers Sportsman Society) Communications Coordinator Chris Murray.

Fredericksburg resident, promoter of BASSARAMA, and amateur fisherman Ronnie Bache has returned from his dream of a lifetime. Chosen at random from thousands of applicants, Bache was one of 150 amateur anglers who fished last week for three days on the Red River near Shreveport, La. Each day, Bache was paired with a different pro and fished the “back of the boat”. Amateurs, fishing with the pros, are at a disadvantage when it comes to the best fishing. They are not in direct competition and are not to interfere with the professional anglers’ opportunity to win, since it is the pros’ livelihood. The amateurs are fishing under tournament conditions with the pros, competing against other amateurs.

“I was feeling that it was going to be a tough tournament…it was going to be work. I was there to have fun and to try to learn and do my best,” said Bache.

Arriving on a Saturday, Bache practiced with the pros on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. By the time the BASSMASTERS event began on Wednesday, Bache was nervous. “It’s like living a fantasy. You feel like you are one of the guys. It’s like being in a dream world, being on the water with BASSMASTER Classic Champions like Roland Martin, Denny Brauer, and this years champ, Kevin Van Dam.”

The dream became a reality, but after the first day, Bache had not caught any keeper fish. “I was so excited and nervous, being with that caliber of fishermen.” The second day Bache’s luck changed. Not only did he bring a full five fish limit to the scales; but his performance outpaced a majority of the pros and set up a run at the amateur championship. “I was even more nervous as I had an opportunity to perform well and possibly win.”

On the third and final day, the pressure was intense. Bache kept casting, eating or drinking only when the boat was moving to a new spot. “The pressure kept me casting as many times as I could. I lost one fish and then a second. I felt like it was over, I was kind of down.” Bache brought only two fish to the scales. As the weights were being tallied Bache, certain that he would not be finishing “in the money” (only the top 40 finishers receive a prize), considered leaving before the final awards.

“When they announced my name I went running back to the stage and I was so excited. I cried, tears of joy.” Bache, 55 years old, phoned his wife and his “daddy”, followed by all of his fishing buddies to announce victory in his 40th place finish. After fishing with the pros for nearly 25 years, Bache finally brought home a prize.

“It’s something I wanted for a long time. I just wanted one of the B.A.S.S. plaques for the wall in my “memory room” along side photos with a lot of the pros. It’s probably the only thing I will probably keep the dust off of.”

Bache also received a $500 prize for his efforts, but couldn’t put a price on the experience of fishing with the pros he calls his “heroes”. “I am more humbled now, realizing the amount of physical and mental effort that goes into professional fishing. My competitive spirit has been revived.”

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