A pair of aces
Skeet Reese was traveling last Friday when the call came from a Bassmaster staffer.
Would Reese, the caller asked, be interested in fishing with Philadelphia Phillies ace pitcher Roy Halladay? And could Reese squeeze the making of a tribute video into his schedule today?
Absolutely, said Reese, on his way to hop a plane to this week's Bassmaster Elite Series tournament in Tennessee.
The Phillies organization sent a production crew to meet Reese's flight in Nashville. The video they made with Reese was used the next day (click here to see the tribute) on PhanaVision at a pre-game ceremony in Philadelphia honoring Halladay's perfect game a week earlier in Miami.
"What a cool opportunity," said Reese. "Roy must be a huge bass-fishing fan for the Phillies to orchestrate this considering throwing a perfect game is such a rare achievement. It's going to be an absolute blast."
Halladay was pleased that the Phillies arranged a trip with the 2009 Bassmaster Classic champ and 2007 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year. The invitation was extended to Halladay and two friends and in the two-time 20-gamer winner's typical low-key style, he picked his two sons.
"The trip was a great surprise. I'm looking forward to learning a few things from Skeet. He's not only one my favorites, he's one of the best," Halladay said.
They will fish either Clear Lake or the California Delta, Reese said, adding that the trip probably will take place in the Major League Baseball offseason, but that no date has been set. That's because the Phillies are contenders to advance to the MLB Playoffs and win the World Series. For Halladay's sake, Reese said he hopes the fishing trip would take place in November (which would signal a late postseason run for the Phils).
Reese was told Halladay is an avid angler, but not what the pitcher's skill level is on the water.
"If he can't cast, I'll be bustin' his chops," Reese joked. "I'll see how accurate he is with a fishing pole, that's for sure. He can hand me a ball and glove to see how accurate I am with it I would not be good, I'm sure."
Reese's video message played before thousands at the Philadelphia stadium, the first time the team had been at home since the pitcher's perfect game May 29 in Miami. The hometown crowd gave Halladay a standing ovation for becoming only the 20th "perfect" pitcher in Major League Baseball history.
The only other perfect game in Phillies history was almost 50 years ago, when Jim Bunning did it in 1964. Bunning is scheduled to be on hand Aug. 26 when the team salutes Halladay again in a big celebration on their home field.
In Bassmaster Elite Series competition, there's nothing equivalent to a MLB perfect game, but for Reese, his April 2010 victory at Virginia's Smith Mountain Lake came close.
"It was almost a perfect tournament, not just because I won, but because I won by such a big margin," Reese said. His four-day total was 14.3 pounds more than his nearest challenger.
Reese and Halladay have more in common than their love of fishing: Both are at the top of their respective games. Halladay is a Cy Young Award recipient; Reese is the 2007 Angler of the Year, and in position to win again this season after five top-5s out of six events this season, including two wins.
Schuff shapes up for a Classic repeat
Craig Schuff of Watauga, Texas, is right where he wants to be: first place in the 2010 Bassmaster Central Open points standings.
And that puts him on the road to a return trip to the Bassmaster Classic.
Schuff competed in the 1996 Classic on Alabama's Lay Lake. He qualified by winning the 1995 Bassmaster Federation Nation Championship, the highest amateur-level competition. He also has two Federation Divisional wins to his name.
He's hoping for one of the Central Open's two berths in the 2010 Bassmaster Classic. He'd welcome an invitation to move up into the top-tier Bassmaster Elite Series, invites issued to the top seven in points.
Schuff took the front-runner points position in April by winning the season opener. He stayed No. 1 when he finished as runner-up at the Red River Open competition last weekend.
It's been a long road back to BASS competition for Schuff. After the 1996 Classic, he took on a new job selling insurance. Contrary to plan, he found he had no time to fish. He was forced to sell his boat, to quit fishing altogether.
"I didn't pick a rod up for three and a half years," he said. "Here I took the job because I thought I could set my own schedule, but it worked just the opposite."
Now self-employed in the same business, he has more freedom. He can enter tournaments and practice for them; he was able to invest in eight days of practice for the Red River contest.
"Now, it's not like I have to be in a certain place at a certain time every day," he said. "I practice, then work hard later (on the job) to make up for it. So perhaps it all worked for the best because I'm starting to get on top of it."
He is not, however, overconfident.
"Just because you're in first place now doesn't mean you will be when all three tournaments are over," he said.
He is ready to think about competition as a new career.
"I think I might, could do that now," said the 2011 Elite Series hopeful. "I would consider it."
With his current lead of 55 points over fellow Texan Keith Combs, Schuff is likely to have the chance to decide on joining the Elites, rather than have the decision made for him. The points race will conclude with the third of three Central Open events in October on Lake Texoma.
Bassmaster Elite Series pros will be running hard this week to make a point or, rather, points.
Elite anglers will be trying to build their points total high enough to be among the Toyota 12, the dozen anglers who will advance to the postseason in July. That's when the winner of the $200,000 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year prize and coveted crown will be determined.
The seventh of eight regular-season events, the Tennessee Triumph on twin lakes Kentucky and Barkley will kick off Wednesday, June 9, out of Paris, Tenn. The tournament will continue through Saturday. (Click here for a schedule of free events for on-site fans; and at Bassmaster.com for daily coverage.)
Elite anglers also are concentrating on earning enough points to secure a 2010 Bassmaster Classic berth. The top 36 will qualify.
Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., continues his monopoly of the points standings. His lead over the nearest challenger, Edwin Evers of Talala, Okla., is a historically wide margin of 178 points.
Here's how the Elite points race stands going into the Kentucky-Barkley event:
1 Skeet Reese Calif. 1642
2 Edwin Evers Okla. 1464
3 Derek Remitz Ala. 1393
4 Gary Klein Texas 1382
5 Cliff Pace Miss. 1381
6 Dave Wolak N.C. 1361
7 Brian Snowden Mo. 1353
8 Mark Davis Ark. 1338
9 Jeff Kriet Okla. 1336
10 Dean Rojas Ariz. 1334
11 John Crews Va. 1333
12 Greg Hackney La. 1327
Brauer's blue-moon win
"Tournaments like this don't happen very often." Chad Brauer of Osage Beach, Mo., after winning the Bassmaster Central Open by a huge margin of 16 pounds, 2 ounces