Local angler, Marshall Williams of Toccoa, returned recently from a not-soon-forgotten experience in upstate New York along the Canadian border. In late August, Marshall travelled to Waddington, NY to participate in the 2018 Bassmaster Elite on the St. Lawrence River. With a 4:00 am wake up Marshall rose quickly out of bed just as usual for any number of tournaments he has fished in.
A normal tournament day for Marshall involves fishing and hopefully, catching bass. However, the mornings in New York were very different as Marshall headed toward the boat ramp before daybreak without a rod and reel. In the place of his team jersey he wore an official Bassmaster marshal hat and shirt. Marshall jumped in the boat of a Bassmaster pro angler as he pulled by and they headed off to the ramp to launch.
That day Marshall was an official marshal for Bassmaster and observed his day 1 assigned angler, Shinichi Fukae to insure adherence to the strenuous rules of professional bass tournaments where the financial stakes are high. Bassmaster takes the marshal position very serious as these professional anglers are not just fishing for fun, they are fishing for substantial money. The first-place winner of the Bassmaster Elite there at the St. Lawrence River would take home $100,000. A marshal’s responsibility was to make sure the angler did not violate any of the Bassmaster rules.
“They can’t foul-hook a fish and keep it, fish in restricted areas, or break any of the set rules. It was my job to make sure they didn’t break any of them. If a rule was violated I was to contact the Bassmaster director for the marshal program immediately after the tournament. These pros were fishing for big money and they didn’t want us to get into a confrontation with them, so I wasn’t supposed to say anything to them about the possible rule infraction. I didn’t have any guys that broke rules, though. In fact, I saw that these guys took the rules very seriously since this is how they pay the bills and put food on the table for their families.” Marshall said of the Elite anglers he rode with. Bassmaster has a marshal in the boat with every professional angler and any member of B.A.S.S. can apply to marshal any of the Elite Series tournaments. “There were older men and a couple of women as marshals, but I think I may have been the youngest one there. Most of the Bassmaster representatives I spoke with throughout the process were very surprised I was a high school student.”
On day two, Marshall was paired with Cliff Prince. “Cliff Prince was a very nice guy. When you find out who your assigned angler is they send you their cell phone number and yours to them. Mr. Prince told me afterwards that I was ‘an outstanding young man’ and if I was ever in his area to call him and he would take me fishing! It was just really cool to have an opportunity to meet these guys. Mr. Fukae was very nice as well and did OK for that tournament, finishing 65th.” Angler Cliff Prince had a rough first day with some engine trouble and was not able to make it to weigh-in in time to be counted. Prince had to release the 19+ pounds he caught and take a zero on day 1. “Since he knew he wasn’t in contention for a top finish, he took the time to talk to me and tell me about the lures he was using and how he was fishing. It was really cool that he did that because he didn’t have to.” Marshall said of Cliff Prince, who finished 103rd due to the engine trouble.
After attending a meeting for all the marshals at the end of day 2, Marshall was excited to hear he had been chosen for a third day and would be paired with Seth Feider. “Seth turned out to be the most exciting to watch. He fished like a madman all day wearing a black sweatshirt and his rain pants” Marshall said of the pro, sometimes called ‘The Amazing Feider-Man’.” It might have been upper New York, with Canada just across the water, but it was a very warm 85 degrees and sunny. “Seth Feider was making me hot just watching him wear that sweatshirt. He was so focused and intent that he never took the time to take it off.”
Marshall is no amateur when it comes to fishing. He recently started his 5th year with Georgia B.A.S.S. Nation High School fishing, and it was through GBNHS’s Facebook page post back in the winter he heard that Bassmaster was still looking for marshals for the St. Lawrence River tournament. Marshall applied for the slot and a few weeks later received an acceptance letter informing him he would be marshaling for two days and then could be chosen for a third and fourth day. “The first two days there were 108 anglers; the third day it dropped to the top 50, and day 3 was only the top 12. I knew my chances of being chosen for the final day were slim, so I was thankful to be able to marshal for three days” said Marshall of the process.
While marshaling, he was expected to take and send in pictures of his angler each day to a Bassmaster representative, who would then post them quickly to their official website. If an angler was doing extremely well, Bassmaster would rush a camera team over. While Marshall did not get to experience that, he was able to send in many pictures of each angler he was with and was credited with each picture that was posted to the Bassmaster website. “If you go to Seth Feider’s Instagram page, there is a picture of him holding a big ‘smallie’ while yelling, ‘WOO!’ I took that picture and, after the tournament, I sent it to him; he immediately posted it to his own Instagram page. It made me feel good that he posted my picture to his own page.” Marshall said.
“The hardest part was not to being able to fish.” Williams said of marshaling all day for three days straight. “I’ve been on the water with a rod and reel since I was very little and this was a new experience for me. I wanted to grab a rod and fish. It made me realize how my dad, my team’s boat captain, feels every time he serves as the captain for me in all of my Georgia B.A.S.S. Nation High School tournaments.” With fishing his passion, Marshall Williams jumped on this opportunity to marshal for Bassmaster in an Elite Series tournament.
“I am on the Tallulah Falls High School Bass Fishing Team and it was great to have the experience to spend time with guys I look up to. I am able to improve my own game by learning from them.” When asked what his favorite part of the trip was, Marshall said “It was cool being able to see such a different area of the US and the way you have to fish up there. Of course, meeting all the pros was an awesome experience. All the Elite Series pros I met were very personable, nice, and easy to talk to. They are just regular guys, like me.”