Recently, I had the opportunity to spend time with, in my opinion, one of the legends of our sport: Gerald Crawford. He wasn’t one of the early competitors I faced, but one of the greatest photographers to ever cover and film professional bass fishing.
We were fishing an MLF Cup event out of Waco, Texas, and Gerald and his family own a marina on a lake outside of Waco that we launched out of on one of our competition days.
For me, seeing Gerald was very personal. It brought back so many memories of my early days in this sport when he was with me quite often at various tournaments. I bet there are thousands of photos from Gerald used in publications over the years. He’s been one of those media people who provided such amazing coverage, whether inside magazines or on the cover.
I came out on tour in 1979, and I think Crawford was around back then. Back then there was no SCORETRACKER®, live feeds, or anything like that. In the format we grew up with, we were competing in the dark as far as knowledge of standings – we never knew how we matched up for that day.
Gerald was a gauge. If he showed up, it was a good thing. I knew him so well, and what he was looking for, I (along with many other anglers) would go out of the way to give him the backdrop he needed. Because if he was there, I knew I was doing pretty well.
I’d love to know how many rolls of film he shot covering bass fishing events over the years.
I, like a few other anglers, raised my family on the circuit. Gerald was always so gracious with my family. My girls loved him.
Having Gerald show up at the venue for our Cup event was terrific, and our crew instantly opened our arms to welcome him. I was very proud of our league. A ton of guys spent a lot of time with Gerald at the dinner for that Cup event, and we found out he was turning 80 shortly. It was very special to have him as a guest. He’s such a big fan of professional bass fishing and helped build the sport over the decades.
Then something pretty cool happened: He asked if he could go with his son-in-law and take some photos of the event. We invited Gerald to be on the water in one of our league boats, so he spent championship day taking photos of our competitors.
In the heat of the moment, there was Crawford, and wow, did that bring back memories. To see his enthusiasm on his 80th birthday was just an amazing experience.
As far as how 2020 turned out (COVID aside), I think it went pretty well. We learned a lot as a league from the 2019 season, and in 2020, we came out firing on all cylinders. The start of the season was off the charts! COVID interrupted, and like the rest of the world, we were sent scrambling to adjust for the the remaining season.
It was still a success, and 2021 looks to be absolutely fantastic. I’m very excited we will be fishing the MLF Bass Pro Tour format for the first time on the St. Lawrence River, Lake Champlain, and Lake St. Clair. I can’t wait to get started.