Tag Archives: Bass

LOTR: The Tolkien/Cancer Connection

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 1.22.19 PMAlright, I’ll start this off with a fair warning: I’m a nerd. Certainly that word has had several meanings for different generations, but I think for the most part it implies that you care about something more than, perhaps, you should. For better or worse our society sees Apathy and indifference as “cool,” and so emotionally investing yourself in something risks your being called names. I’ve been called most, so I’m hopefully developing a thick skin. Who was, for all intents and purposes, the “King of Cool”?

I’ll give you a clue: He died driving a Porche in a reckless fashion, the same one in which he lived much of life. His legend is forever cemented in the immortality of youth and apathy toward danger. James Dean did, arguably, the “coolest” thing anyone can do: He died young and seemingly unafraid. We might give lip service to condemning that kind of behavior, but look around… we as a society are on our knees praising it. Hendrix, Cobain and Dean are all almost revered in popular culture.

When I was in High School, I absolutely fell in love with the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I was halfway through Return of the King on a school night, and I feigned illness the next day to stay home and finish it. Yeah… I was that bad. Something about (skip this if you’re not a LOTR fan) a King like Aragorn, disguised as a simple Ranger named Strider, was tremendously endearing. Perhaps we all want to believe that we are “more,” beneath the way we present ourselves to the rest of the world, and that concept embodied in Tolkien’s pages, and later on the screen, was an endearing one to a high school kid who got cut from every team he ever tried out for, save for bowling (They didn’t make cuts).

The most endearing thing about Tolkien’s work, which manifests itself in a great deal of literature, though… was a simple concept: Hope despite hardship. Tolkien chose hobbits, not kings or soldiers, to save the fate of the universe from evil overtaking it. Sure, a wizard helped… but ultimately it was a tiny creature from the Shire that defeated Sauron’s empire. To solidify my Nerd status, I’ll pull a second reference from Christian Bale’s portrayal of another of my heroes from youth: Batman. He says to Katie Holmes’ character at one point in the movie: “I am… more.” He was, in the movie, as was Frodo… “more,” than he appeared to be.

That kind of inspiration, and I’ve drawn it from several places, is what keeps me fighting this disease when I ask myself nagging questions like: “What will $4,000 accomplish against an illness that persevered, killing millions, despite trillions of dollars being devoted to cancer research?” What difference will this make?”

I try not to get too religious in my Catch a Cure ramblings… because I’m aware we all have our own faith… but a baby born to a carpenter in a manger might have seemed like an unlikely hero to save all of humanity at the time, too.

But Tolkien isn’t some obscure author you have to search through pages of Google returns to learn about. His work is published in dozens of languages, read around the world, it has become a million-dollar movie franchise, and he has a fanbase that spans the globe.

And although his prose was incredible, his understanding of language, fascinating, and his ability to tell a story, almost unparalleled… I don’t think that’s what has kept his works alive long after his passing.

I think that the central premise of his work is simple: Although the world at times can make us feel small and insignificant, that does not mean we are incapable of accomplishing incredible things.

As Tolkien illustrates… it wasn’t an army that destroyed the symbol of greed and evil… it was a small hand connected to a small creature… with courage much larger than his size might indicate, dropping the ring into the fires of Mordor.

And I know that millions, if not trillions of dollars have been spent fighting melanoma, the disease that killed my father… but when I read Tolkien, and stories as inspiring as his… I’m reminded that it’ll be the final dollar that funds the study that finds the cure that matters as much as all the ones that got us to the point where it might. And a dollar? That… that I can scare up, thanks to the help and support of so many companies, and individuals, that have come to my aid in this endeavor.

[And if you’re one of the 12 people who read this, please keep the secret of my not being cool to yourself]

 

Always Stay Humble and Kind

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Steve Niemoeller, of Bassonline.com, who has helped this project enormously, hoists a St. Johns River largemouth.

I’ll admit that when I cross into what’s considered “The South,” I can’t help but change the Sirius Radio to the Highway, its country station. And I’ve heard the Tim McGraw song on a lot lately, and it’s resonated more and more with me throughout this trip.

If we have any type of success in whatever we attempt in life, it’s easy to start to think we’ve earned something, that because of what we’ve achieved, built or accomplished… we’re in some way ‘better,’ than those who have failed to do just that. I’ve been guilty of this, and I’m not proud of it.

But I think it’s important for us, throughout our lives, to look to others for inspiration and guidance, no matter how old we get. And when I look at the number of the people who’ve helped this project, not from some celebrity or business tycoon, but from a graduate student and freelance outdoor writer, it’s overwhelmingly evident just how many American people feel the exact same way, and live out that humility and kindness every day.

When I dreamt up Catch a Cure II, I sent e-mails to every company listed in the iCast catalog (the annual sportfishing trade show). Now we all open our e-mails every day and, unless it’s something from someone we know, we often disregard it. But the people at Get Vicious Fishing didn’t. The people at Native Eyewear didn’t. They opened the e-mail, their hearts and wallets and got on board.

The guides in Florida at BassOnline, who are the most professional, kind and helpful guys you’ll ever meet, didn’t hesitate to get right on board with the project, and went above and beyond to help out. Steve Niemoeller, Brett Isackson and Todd Kersey each went out of their way to see to it that Catch a Cure I, and II, got all the fish it could. Above all else, I want this project to be about hope, about a fun future for outdoorsmen that’s safer because it’s informed. And I could never create that kind of project alone, and those guys made sure I wouldn’t have to.

When searching for an outlet for this dream, I sent a Facebook message to B.A.S.S. social media editor Tyler Wade. How many of those must she get, in her job, per day? And she read mine, got back, and got on board for the project. That still amazes me every time I think about it.

And when I talked about my dream, of starting a beautiful fishing magazine for conventional (not fly) fishermen, an angler and professor named Gian Lombardo at Emerson College, where I’m a grad student, believed in it and got on board. He even helped me come up with an idea about how to build that very publication: By asking YOU what you wanted to see in it. And you can answer that question for me right here, and I’d greatly appreciate it if you would. And by the way, filling out this survey will make you eligible to win prizes, in case you need added incentive aside from getting the EXACT magazine that you want made for you.

And I never forget, when I’m out here, that most of the time this is enjoyable, if it’s at times challenging. But the people at the Melanoma Research Foundation, who are working with these dollars to fund the studies that WILL find the cure, they’re the ones who truly deserve a pat on the back, and our deepest gratitude. Katherine Daniels, specifically, has been a world of help to me as I’ve tried to figure out all the details that go along with a fundraising project like this one.

In truth, I’m kind of a shy young man. I don’t particularly relish being on camera to film these videos, or seeing myself in pictures with fish. I became a writer because… it seemed a preferable alternative to having to talk.

But when this disease came into my life, and my family’s life, I couldn’t help but see that as a challenge, to see it as having some purpose necessitating a response. Maybe I needed to see it that way, because UV rays causing malignant cells to spread throughout a loved one’s body and take his life, without any greater meaning in the grand scheme of things, is is somewhat hard to stomach.

And maybe life isn’t as complicated as we’d like to think, and things have a greater meaning if and when we decide that they do, for us, during that point in our lives.

But I know that the people who’ve come into my life through this effort, whether that’s the sponsors who’ve gotten on board, the people at Emerson who’ve encouraged the effort, the guides from Oklahoma to Florida who’ve helped… it has meant more to me than I can articulate. It has been a profound difference in my life at a time when I needed one. Their humility, kindness and help will stay with me forever. And most importantly, perhaps, when we as a species finally find the cure for this cancer, we can all say we had a small hand in that effort.

“Don’t take for granted the love this life gives you.” I’m certainly not.

Thank you all,

Rick Bach

Hope Makes Us Human: A Florida Story

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The Sun Sets Near Boca Grande, Florida

“Simple exchange of values. You give them money, they give you a stuffed dog.” – Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

Reading The Sun Also Rises during my first year at Syracuse University changed my life, and I became a devoted Hemingway disciple. It was this line, more than any other, that endeared me to the story. Jake Barnes, Hemingway’s main character, has suffered a traumatic injury in the war, and he’s come to hold one simple truth in life: You get what you pay for. In typical Hemingway fashion, the concept is illustrated with a blunt and simple metaphor when Barnes considers buying a stuffed dog.

I left a full-time job at 24 to live in a Jeep and fish as much of the country as I could for Outdoor Life Magazine.

I sacrificed a great many of the things we are taught to work for throughout much of our youth: a full-time job, a steady income, security…

I gained… well, I saw almost everything in lower 48. I spent 200 nights, exactly, sleeping in that Jeep and fished my way from remote northern Maine down to the Keys, out to San Diego and up to Seattle. That was my “stuffed dog.” A simple exchange of values.

This morning I met a woman near Palatka, Florida named Jackie Bliss. Jackie’s husband lost his father to melanoma, and Jackie keeps the bait shop she works in, Bob’s Bait and Tackle in St. Augustine, stocked with strong sunscreen. I gave Ms. Bliss a Catch a Cure shirt, and a few surveys to hand out for the magazine I’m hoping to build.

I’m hoping to create a beautiful publication, showcasing a side of the sport that all of us appreciate but perhaps we find hard to articulate. I’m hoping I can find writers and photographers to wrap words and images around the beauty that draws us all back to the water. But most importantly, I’m hoping to build a magazine that you’re looking for, that you want to read, and you can help me do that here.

I spoke with Jackie for a moment, and we smiled and exchanged stories. I told her about my father, and she shared some stories about her father in law. She said the T-shirt was her favorite color, and with that I was back on the road.

We’d both lost something essential in our lives, a loved one. But now we shared this appreciation for the time that we do have, and a fight for a better future. A simple exchange of values. What was never traded, sacrificed or given up, is the one thing that I believe, above all else, defines us as a species: Hope.

 

On a Day Without Fish: Reflecting on the Best thing about Them

The simplest thing about fishing is the best: you can't fake a fish.
The simplest thing about fishing is the best: you can’t fake a fish.

Out here on the road, immersed in everything angling, you can’t help but wonder what it is about the sport that has and continues to draw people from all walks of life to it, and I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know any more than the next guy, so I’m certainly not here to preach any wisdom from on high some throne of experience.

I have been fortunate enough to fish a great many places, from the northern reaches of Maine down through the wonderful beaches of New Jersey (that were beautiful and fishy enough that I called them home for a while) to the blissful Outer Banks to the slooowed dooown, methodical and graceful backwaters of Georgia, out to the wide-open amazing expanses of Montana and Wyoming and into the bass-crazy havens hidden in California, and especially here in Florida, where you’d be hard pressed to find a place that’s not fishy in some sense. Thanks to guys at Bass Online, I’m experiencing the bass capital in a whole new way.

And I know what I love most about the sport, and what I think draws so many of us to it, is that there’s simply no “faking it.” In so many arenas in life, whether it’s testing our intelligence, strength or courage, there are shortcuts and trapdoors and loopholes that might make us appear greater than we truly are.

But with fishing, there’s only the fish, the true test of our abilities and our understanding of the world in which they live and the measure of our capacity to bring them, if only briefly, into ours… even if just for a picture.

And in fishing we find this genuine, “can’t-fake-it” arena where there’s some hard-sought but rarely found legitimacy that’s sorely lacking in other parts of our lives.

The water and the fish are the measure of everything about us in this one small slice of life.

And as a writer, if you’ve something to say, in time you’ll learn someone has likely captured the sentiment better than you possibly could and the best you can do is find him and quote him.

As a fishing writer, you’ll find that that someone is often John Gierach. In his book No Shortage of Good Days, he writes: “Life is an unruly mess and ideals are hard to hold onto, but fishing is an isolated enough slice of it that there’s the hope we can do this one small thing perfectly.”

And being absolutely unable to improve upon or add to that sentiment, I’ll leave you with it.

Breaking into Triple Digits With a Great Day on The St. Johns

Connor Cato holds up a two-plus-pound largemouth that inhaled a live shiner on the St. Johns River
Connor Cato holds up a two-plus-pound largemouth that inhaled a live shiner on the St. Johns River

Thanks again to Bassonline guide Steve Niemoeller, Catch a Cure broke the $100 mark today on the St. Johns River here in Florida. I tagged along with Steve and clients Willy and Connor Cato and we had an eventful day on the St. Johns pitching shiners on the river to some chunky bass. The first fish of the day, pushing just more than two pounds, brought us from $98, where we’d been stuck, to 100-plus when it weighed in at two-plus pounds The fish would be one of six that added, in sum, twelve more dollars to our total raised for the Melanoma Research Foundation, bringing us to $110.

Connor, the younger Cato, of course stole the show with some nice fish although his father bagged a few chunky bass as well. It was in interesting experience testing out a different type of bass habitat. While the St. Johns, at this section, is a slow moving river, you’re still looking for structure that can break the flow of the current and provide some habitat for these fish.

It was agonizing but amazing to see these fish toy with, whack and finally crush the three-inch-plus shiners we were swinging into pockets and holes on the St. Johns. It was proof positive than in these slower, hot summer days, nothing beats a live bait for bass.

The guys all went home sporting a Florida Sportsman limited edition Buff after a beautiful day on the river… juuuussst before a brutal storm hit and flooded me out of my motel room. The flash flood that left me “wading” by my bed was a reminder why Florida, while beautiful, like any place, has its own set of difficult circumstances that can arise. But after a day like we had on the St. Johns, nothing could dampen my spirits. To top the day off, once we were off the boat, Mr. Cato handed me a hundred-dollar bill toward the Melanoma Research Foundation’s efforts. I was speechless, and still am.