Short Strikes No. 8

This week, Short Strikes is back from the Bassmaster Classic, with another hot batch of microwaved news for your quick consumption—including a police chase, and a saltwater giant’s first experience at the Classic Expo.

AFTCO’s First Bassmaster Classic Experience

“We left the Bassmaster Classic feeling more excited than ever for our entrance into freshwater,” says AFTCO V.P. of Sales and Marketing Casey Shedd. “We’ve learned that there is a lot in common between the apparel interests of both fresh and saltwater anglers. Both customers want a good fitting technical garment that is comfortable to wear. There are also some subtle nuances and differences. Our men’s line is fairly extensive so it’s been interesting to see some current colors and styles that aren’t as popular in the saltwater market gaining steam and interest in the freshwater market.”

Shedd says about 50-percent of the consumers who stopped by AFTCO’s Bassmaster Classic Expo booth were already familiar with the brand. Based on positive feedback, the company plans to increase their square footage at next year’s event. And they’re already adding more independent retailers in the freshwater market.

The strike: AFTCO is one of the most environmentally responsible brands in fishing. Following their experience at the Classic Expo, Shedd says the company plans to kick off bass-focused conservation programs “much faster than initially planned.”

Their most popular product? AFTCO’s fishing shorts, which were developed for the saltwater market in 1989. Shedd says Expo visitors were also keen to try sun protection products, and retailers in northern states are already requesting cold weather specific gear. AFTCO is currently working with their pro staff—including Elite Series pros Jason Christie and Russ Lane—to develop cold weather gear specific to the bass market.

Heads up: Classic qualifier Ryan Butler used AFTCO as a platform to support dream fishing trips for children last week. He’s still raising funds for that goal.

Don’t Fear the Reaper

Short Strikes found itself in the midst of a bizarre news cycle at last week’s Expo, after a robbery at a Greenville hotel was followed by a high speed police chase. The spectacle unfolded around reel lubricant manufacturer, Reelsnot, who’s exhibition trailer was stolen in an overnight heist by some, apparently, unintelligent thieves.

Authorities didn’t take long to locate the stolen trailer. Reelsnot CEO Noah Wheeler says his neon green apparel was found strewn across a neighborhood in Greenville. Once authorities contacted Reelsnot, the combined teams went to the location to recover the trailer … that’s when the thieves showed up. 

The strike: Arrests have been made. The trailer contained several thousand bottles of gooey reel lubricant, plus T-shirts, hats, and other miscellaneous promotional apparel that probably isn’t worth charges of grand larceny, criminal conspiracy, and a 30-mile police chase in a stolen vehicle.

Here’s a look at exclusive video Short Strikes captured from the scene:

$1.4 Billion (Kinda) Approved for Everglades Restoration

While the fishing world focused on the Bassmaster Classic, water management officials in south Florida approved a $1.4 billion plan to build a retention reservoir to stop coastal water pollution from Lake Okeechobee runoff.

This crisis garnered national headlines in 2016, as a severe algae bloom spread across parts of the area, resulting in a state of emergency. However, pollution from Lake Okeechobee has been an environmental concern for decades.

Federal funding will be required to pay for half of the overall cost. Thus far, the Department of the Interior has staked its ground beside industry in matters of environmental conservation. The Interior, though, won’t have a say when Congress debates writing the $700 million check.

The strike: South Florida fishing guides and national conservation groups say they are unsure whether the reservoir will be enough to stop what is likely catastrophic damage to the Everglades and the Florida Bay fishery. Their chief beef? Rather than encroaching on the state’s sugar industry, the reservoir will be limited to state-owned land, limiting its scale and effectiveness. In other words, this costly reservoir could be too little, too late.

This isn’t the first time lawmakers have approved Everglades restoration efforts without backing up their lip service. A 1970 Congressional effort to improve Everglades water flow only delivers 20-percent of the areas natural inflow. Not enough, the park service says, to “maintain a functional ecosystem.”

The Everglades already hosts 90-percent fewer nesting birds than it did in the 1930s, and you can bet that avian animals aren’t the only members of the ecosystem suffering.

The closer

I criticized Bassmaster Classic competitors last year for their mostly horrid intro music. When you’re rolling into an arena full of fans,  you need a song that’s going to pump up the crowd. Last year, the eventual tournament winner, Jordan Lee, found himself in the musical Top 10 thanks to a sampling by Miami hip-hop mogul Rick Ross, but the field itself was mostly brutal—being comprised almost entirely of modern country music.

This year, 2014 Bassmaster Classic champ Randy Howell continued his impressive devotion to a homemade rap track. But the field as a whole did improve drastically. Of the 52 anglers, only 10 relied on tracks from the underwhelming “new country” sound. While there were a total of 14 country tracks, we’ll excuse Hank Williams, Jr., Charlie Daniels, Alan Jackson, and Johnny Cash from their modern counterparts.

(Shout out to 19-year old college champ Jacob Foutz for using Cash. That’s one more reason to believe in America’s future.)

This year’s bottom rung

The most bizarre choice goes to Jason Williamson for Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” which might have made its first appearance in a building that has actual windows in several decades.

The runner-up to most terrible intro song—behind permanent champion Randy Howell—goes to Brandon Coulter for Nickelback’s “Rockstar.” Seriously, Short Strikes thought this plague of canned stardom stopped infesting eardrums in the mid 00’s. The song is so bad that we won’t even bother to post it here.

We will; however, give you this year’s Top Three Bassmaster Classic intro tracks:

3. Jacob Wheeler: Kanye West – “POWER”

Wheeler didn’t have enough power to take home his first Bassmaster Classic title, but after starting off his Elite Series career with two consecutive wins last year, he’s having no trouble keeping the lights on one of the most controversial rising stars in fishing.

2. Josh Bertrand: Dropkick Murphy’s – “I’m Shipping Up to Boston”

Bertrand’s epic Irish/pirate/punk choice is one of the most well known punk songs of all time. Bertrand gets extra points for choosing this one based on two criteria— 1) He rolled into the arena sporting his trademark red beard, 2) He did so on St. Patrick’s Day weekend. Bertrand clearly put some extra thought behind his theme song, and combined with a stomping beat and anger-filled signature sound from the Murphy’s, that’s enough to earn second place.

1. Jordan Lee: Schoolboy Q – “Man of the Year”

Yeah, no doubt.

Lee takes top honors from James Elam, who owned last year with Nirvana’s “In Bloom” but couldn’t retain behind Tool’s “Lateralus.” Schoolboy Q combines perfect timing, a thumping beat, and a creative choice to give the 2018 Classic champion two crowns.