One false step and the moment is shattered. One shift of weight, ill-timed word, or unexpected motion can break intense focus like a windowpane shattering to pieces at your feet.
Day 2 of the Bass Pro Tour Qualifying Round drips with intensity. Half the field limps home, half the field gets paid.
One toe past the Elimination Line in the third period is where I find Scott Suggs, staring at the cleanest water Lake Eufaula has yielded in a week, not a ripple to be seen. The water is like glass until it’s broken by bait scattering in all directions running to retain life. Green giants are feeding.
Tournament survival is the only thing that matters to Suggs in this moment, and nothing can get in the way. That is…until the cameraman arrives. He knows why I’m here. His tournament life is on the line – the Elimination Line.
The still water is broken by the trolling motor of the camera-transport boat approaching. Ripples disturb the water as I step from the transfer boat to the back of the stage where Suggs is performing. Not a nod, not a word, not even the slightest notice of the disturbance comes from the front deck. The focus has not been broken, so intense that no camera can capture it.
“I have to put a mic on you.”
These words bring fear, but it’s a fear we must face, sometimes, several times a day. There’s no shying away from the tension and fears, because the moment must be captured. The story must be told.
These moments create a sense of tension so thick that no knife can cut through it.
It’s a nervous, anxious situation: moments frozen in time where an angler’s fate rests in the depths of the water reigned by the mighty bass. No one has control of these moments, other than to destroy them. That’s the tightrope that each MLF cameraman must walk every day.
We waltz right into these situations. But we understand the importance of these moments. We acknowledge what is at stake.
If you’ve never been in this situation – very few people have – you might suspect that you would feel like the most hated creature on the face of the Earth. Not only is the angler fighting for survival, now he has to do it with the world watching, with a cameraman asking questions, with focus in jeopardy.
“I have to put a mic on you,” is answered with a slow quarter turn. Again, no words, no nod, no notice of my existence other than the simple turn. I drop the mic down Suggs’ shirt, attach the lavalier to his collar, hook the mic to his belt, and tiptoe to the back of the boat.
Immediately, bait busts, bass jump, and the perfect cast is made…without success. It’s a crushing blow as the world watches the perfect cast and listens to JT Kenney applaud the actions of Suggs, yet the results are heartbreaking.
This continues, the tension builds, the focus intensifies, and the SCORETRACKER® update brings bad news.
“Scott, will you give us an update?”
Ouch! This will be the only time Scott speaks until 10 minutes before lines out. He handles it gracefully like a true professional, giving everyone the details of the heartbreak that is befalling him, and then returns to focus.
This is not a story of a man overcome by his situation. This is a story about a man in the trenches of battle.
This is not a story about tension and intensity being intimidating. This is a story about the beauty of the moment, and it is truly a beautiful moment.
It’s something that few people get to witness, and even fewer will understand. The beauty of this moment will never be properly captured on camera, nor can it be properly translated into words. It’s one of the moments we live for while running the camera. It’s our comfort zone.
The windowpane has been shattered. Words have been spoken. Tension has been broken. With 10 minutes remaining, Suggs finds a flurry of fish and shatters the Elimination Line to survive for another day. The focus and intensity have paid off. Business has been handled and the battle won. Once again, we can be friends.
Editor’s note: Cody Prather is a longtime cameraman for MLF. His column “From the Middle Seat” will appear periodically as he welcomes readers to view the Bass Pro Tour experience through a unique new lens.