He makes a racket with a rod

Reese recuperates in Auburn after fourth place finish on bass tour
By: Ray Hacke Journal Sports Writer
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Even dream jobs have downsides. Just ask Skeet Reese. The 39-year-old Auburn resident has a career a good many folks would envy. He gets paid to go fishing every day — at least from February to September, when he’s traveling around the country to compete in Bassmaster Elite Tour events. Then he gets the next five months off. “Most people have a job, and then their hobbies,” Reese said. “My hobby is my job.” Still, for those whose cars bear bumper stickers that read “A bad day fishing is better than a good day at work” or “I’d rather be fishing,” Reese would be the first to testify that even professional sport fishermen experience rough days at the office. He had a few himself this season. Reese finished fourth in the Bassmaster standings this year — not bad considering that he had only one top-10 finish in 12 tournaments. Still, for someone who placed among the top 10 nine times in 15 events en route to winning the Bassmaster championship in 2007, fourth place was a disappointment. “I had high expectations,” the admittedly competitive Reese said. “I wanted to win it again. “My goal is to win every tournament, but it’s hard to win every single time — unless you’re Tiger (Woods).” Based on his performance in 2007, Reese was nominated for ESPN’s 2008 ESPY Award for Best Outdoor Athlete. At ESPN’s awards presentation in July, Reese lost out to Capt. Scott Smiley, a blind mountain climber who lost his eyesight while serving in the Army in Iraq. Reese can pinpoint one tournament in particular that doomed his hopes of retaining his Bassmaster title in 2008. He finished 59th in the next-to-last event of the season at Lake Erie/Niagara Falls. In the season’s first seven tournaments, Reese never finished lower than 22nd, placing in the top 20 six times. In the final four events, however, Reese never placed higher than 28th. “Last year was one of those years when everything went right,” Reese said. “Every decision I made paid off. Every adjustment I made in the water paid off. “What was frustrating this season was that I had all the same opportunities to win. Things just didn’t go my way. That’s just fishing.” Reese couldn’t exactly explain what went wrong. “Some of it was probably self-inflicted,” he said. “Slight judgments of error, stuff the average person would never understand as far as the technicalities and the science as far as the rod, reel and tackle go, but that I understand because I’m a professional.” Reese’s difficulties were not exactly something a coach could correct, either. “My livelihood is based on a live creature that has a mind of its own and adjusts to Mother Nature,” Reese said. “I just have to go to the lake, see what conditions are like and make some adjustments from there.” Fishing every day can also be more exhausting than it sounds, especially when tournament victories are based on the combined weight of one’s haul. Bassmaster fishermen can only weigh five fish on each day of a tournament, and only three kinds of bass — largemouth, smallmouth and spotted — count toward that weight. “In most other sports, athletes condition for two or four hours of work,” Reese said. “Mine’s 10 hours a day, sometimes for 14 days straight, from daylight to dark. I’ve got to go in physically conditioned to the best of my ability.” Now that Reese is home for the offseason, “I get to play Daddy,” said the father of girls Leamarie, 5, and Courtney, 2. He also plans to do a little fishing — though not for bass. He plans to try and catch some steelhead locally and “chase the big tuna down in Mexico.” A pro fisherman for 11 seasons, Reese figures he’ll continue competing for 5-10 years, maybe longer. “As long as I’m fishing, I’m happy,” he said.