Rumblin' Waters Bass Anglers
Product Innovations Inc.
Salvatore "Scap" Cicero at 59 is a successful businessman, having sold a successful marine dealership and now marketing trolling motor accessories. But 24 years ago, he stepped off a plane from Zimbabwe with nothing more than his family and a few suitcases.
"We found an apartment, but there was nothing in it," Cicero reminisced. "It has not been an easy road to follow."
The Italian citizen said the choice to uproot his family and move to the United States came after joining Zimbabwe's Federation Nation and, in 1980, becoming a member of the first team that country sent to compete in the Federation Nation Championship on Oklahoma's Grand Lake.
He finished 132nd, but Cicero was hooked.
"Before we went [to Grand Lake], we came to Montgomery [Alabama] and visited BASS headquarters," Cicero told BASS Times. "Of course, I fell in love with Alabama."
He went home to Zimbabwe, where he worked as an electrician, and dreamed of returning to the United States for good. However, getting money out of the country was very difficult.
"Zimbabwe has a $400 limit [on exporting cash]," Cicero said. "For $400, you cannot move a family."
By 1984, the situation in Zimbabwe steadily deteriorated until it was clear that the Cicero family needed to leave. Cicero finally loaded his wife and two young children on a plane for Alabama.
The transition was amazing, he said.
"We were going from a country where you can go to a supermarket and you could not buy anything," Cicero said. "If you're going to give a future to your children, you couldn't do it in Africa.
"One of the adjustments I had to make when I got [to the United States] was deciding which brand to buy or which flavor I wanted."
One of the first things Cicero did when reaching Alabama was join two local Federation Nation clubs, one in Montgomery and one in Wetumpka.
He fished with those clubs while struggling to make a living as a self-employed electrician before opening his own fiberglass repair shop. That soon led to outboard repair, and eventually Cicero opened a marine dealership.
That business, Boat Center 170, grew to a point where Cicero could join the state Federation Nation as a sponsor.
"That's a very good opportunity to help other fishermen," he said. "It also helps you because many more people know your product. The people from the Federation Nation become friends and customers."
That's exactly how Cicero met Montgomery's Eulon "Bunky" Lee, who has traveled and partnered with Cicero for tournaments for the past 20 years.
Lee quickly came to admire Cicero's "go-getter" attitude.
"He's really chasing a dream," Lee said. "He's a very, very hard-working guy. Scap was everything at the dealership. His whole family worked there."
Lee was amazed at Cicero's attention to detail.
"He is meticulous," Lee said. "When he'd be working on an engine, before he laid that wrench down on the counter to pick up something else, he'd wipe it down. That's just how he was."
Cicero, who became an American citizen April 8, 2008, has never forgotten his Federation Nation roots. In his 24 years of living in Alabama, he has opened his home to other international Federation Nation members and has traveled to Italy and Spain to fish with new friends.
"You get to know a lot of people through the Federation," Cicero said. "They're absolutely great people."
The most recent manifestation of Cicero's love for the Federation Nation came when he began building and selling trolling-motor transducer shields after selling the marine dealership. He has been building the Transducer Shield and Saver by hand, but they soon will be machined and available in larger numbers.
"We take $5 off for any Federation Nation member and we give them free shipping," he said.
The gesture is simple logic for this new citizen.
"If it wasn't for the Federation Nation, I wouldn't be in the United States," Cicero said. "It gave me a fantastic opportunity."