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Dinner with Paul and Shaw: The Delta

“Lean on me…”

Dateline:  Elite No. 3, Sacramento, California

Uh Oh.

Got some math here.

Uh Oh more.

Got some geography here.

Uh Oh.

Lets be honest, in high school my best class was…shop.

And then there was this, my best BEST class in order of importance was…cheerleaders.

So Paul Elias is sitting across from me at dinner and he is doing the gasoline math of how many miles scooting along the highway divided by how close he is of going over his credit card limit to get an Angler MPG of something or another.

I’m quietly just eating my chicken wings with eyes down just staring at the plastic cup of blue cheese and queuing in on what he is saying looking for specific words I understand like…


…wooden birdhouse…


…behind the football stands…

…and I ain’t hearing any of them words yet.

Uh Oh.

“Eight hundred ‘d,’ eight hundred gallons of fuel for the boat and my truck.”

I stick one of those fat chicken wing drumsticks in my mouth and just raise my eyebrows in response, sans the chicken wing it is the universal sign of, “dude, you got me.”

“When all is said and done that’s what I’ll use getting here to this tournament and launching in Sacramento and fishing in the Delta.”

I undo my eyebrows and scrunch up my nose, I’m almost down to bone on the chicken wing, the scrunch up is the universal sign of, “dude I flew here and I forgot to ask Delta Airlines what their MPG was…”

Welcome to dinner with Paul Elias and Shaw Grigsby, California style.

Last year I drove over 30,000 IRS-deductible miles chasing B.A.S.S. tournaments all over America.

That’s equals about ONCE AROUND EARTH plus 5,000 miles out into space.

I have made 20 payments on my Tundra and have already melted down one set of tires, at one point last year I did the 5,000 mile checkup EVERY TWO WEEKS.

I filed one story to Wired2Fish from an I-20 rest stop.

Get this straight, I am NOT complaining, I knew all of this when I signed on the dotted line, I love to drive, love to see the country, but if you love this sport and you follow the box score on weights, that’s only half the game.

Here’s the box score you don’t normally see:  Travel.

“…when you’re not strong…”

Shaw Grigsby:  “Let’s see, I left Gainesville drove 16 hours the first day, 18 hours the second day, 8 hours the final day…2,785 miles in 3 days.”

Paul Elias left from his Laurel, Mississippi house so it was, “…only 2,200 miles ‘d’, drove 10 hours the first day, 18 hours the second day, 8 hours the last day, averaged 13.4 miles a gallon…”

Shaw:  “Wow, 13, I love my new truck I got 15 through the trip…”

Paul:  “…yeah I figure if I make a check out here these next two events, make just one cut I’ll be in the hole about $5 grand.”

Both Paul and Shaw just looked down at their half eaten dinner, neither said a word about what would happen if neither one of them made the cut in these next two weeks.

Imagine that drive back home.

“…and I’ll be your friend…”

“The Shadow Knows, ‘d,’ the Shadow KNOWS.”

We all have tricks, plans of how we get through the long drives, Shaw’s plan pretty much involves time travel.

“I love me some of my Sirius Satellite Radio channel 82 the old time radio shows…”


Paul is moving the big beef burrito around on his plate and makes a sideways glance at Shaw, the universal roommate sign of: What The…

“I listen to those old radio shows, Johnny Dollar, Gunsmoke, The Whistler, and of course, The Shadow.”

I have tried that only to find out that The Shadow DIDN’T KNOW how to keep me awake.

“I also listen to a book on cd called, Miracles Still Happen, but when I’m really tired I turn to channel 6 and crank up those oldies but goodies from the 1960s.”

Paul is looking at me smiling, the smile of a roommate who can one-up another roommate.  Gently he pushes his cell phone across the table to me…

…and both Shaw and I freak.

Bassmaster Classic winner, Bass Fishing Hall Of Fame Inductee Paul Elias HAS BOUGHT A NEW PHONE.

A NEW phone, not a Craig’s List thing, not an eBay thing, not one borrowed from the grandkids, Paul Elias has a NEW freakin’ phone.

Shaw and I raise our glasses, his of water, mine of Root Beer, and toast Mr. Ga’lias.

When we first started rooming together Paul was the proud owner of a cracked and chipped flip phone, after a year or two he turned it in for an iPhone 1 that he may have bought from some dude in Russia.

That phone went overboard one tournament.

As did another one or two antique iPhones.  At one point more of his cell phones hit the water than crankbaits.

And get this, when he slid his new phone over to me he hit a button on the screen and the phone actually did what he wanted it to.

I ‘bout wiped a tear.

“See there ‘d,’ see…”

And when I looked down I saw 4 books, 4 audiobooks:  The Fifth Assassin, The Hit, The Panther, and Unlucky 13.

Me:  “Dude you, YOU got those audiobooks on this phone by yourself…”

It’s an iPhone 6, Paul has managed to skip all of them between 2 and now.


Thought so.

“…my daughter put them on it for me.  I didn’t listen to the radio for the whole trip.”

Shaw is impressed, “I know I LOVE books on tape, have to tell you I get so enthralled listening to the stories that I ran out of gas TWICE while listening.”

You see, right there is the value of having dinner with your roommates, every once in awhile one of them blurts out something that should remain un-blurted.

Both Paul and I just look at Shaw.

“Yep, twice, both times I had to go back to my boat and suck some gas out of it, out it in my truck so I could get to the nearest gas station.  Love those books on tape.”

Yep, a roommate hall of fame moment right there.

“…I’ll help you carry on.”

Me:  “Do you have a list”

Both Paul and Shaw shake their heads yes, they knew immediately what I was talking about…talking about the ever important: KEEP ME AWAKE CALL LIST.

I actually have a group list on my phone called: AWAKE CALLS.

On the list:  My wife, both kids, two brother’s in law, Dr. Mac., KVD, Skeet, Kevin & Kerry Short, a mob source from my old days as an investigative journalist (he’s a funny guy that makes me laugh), JTodd Tucker and his dad Butch, Steve Kennedy, dudes at Bassmaster-dot-com, Bob Ley, Father Ken, a neighbor, Pat Rose whenever I’m tooling through Tennessee, and of course, Paul & Shaw.

Shaw:  “I call my wife, my son, my daughter, friends, you…”

Paul:  “Pretty much the same, talking really helps keep me awake…”

Me too.

All of us out here fear that the most, my wife is panicked about it, me falling asleep driving.

We are awake long hours and make long drives, a deadly combination that, to be honest, worry me as well.

I have never met an Elite angler out here who hasn’t mentioned nodding off while driving.

That is flat out scary.

But with those drives, comes America.

Shaw:  “Man it was a beautiful drive, mountains, deserts, drove through an area filled with those Saguaro cactus are majestic.”

Paul:  “We get to see so much of America, I was thinking as I was driving to California about all those people who made the trip in covered wagons…”

Shaw:  “How in the world can we complain, those folks, now those were tough son’s of you know what…”

As we sit thinking about the covered wagons I google to see how fast they made the trip compared to my roommates…

“Dudes, says here they may have, MAY have gone 20 miles a day, maybe averaged 4-5 miles and hour…”

Paul:  “And then they run into that Donner Pass…”

Shaw:  “…been there, ate there…”

Both Paul and I just look at him and shake our heads.

For me, one of the greatest parts of this here job I have is simply, the view out the front windshield.

Yeah, we drive a lot, yeah it is tough, but I have been in 100s of small towns, dozens of lakes, almost every state and while I may have skipped geography class in high school, I’m living it now.

I’ll tell you a secret…

…most times on the real long rides I will pull my iPod out of the glove box, will dial up one song, hit the repeat symbol and push play…

…and for the next hour or so the same song will play…

…and for the next hour or so I will stay awake…

…and for the next hour or so a smile will be on my face…

…as I watch America play across my windshield…

…while listening to…

…Ray Charles sing…

…America The Beautiful…


“Oh beautiful, for spacious skies,

For amber waves of grain,

For purple mountain majesties,

Above the fruited plain..”

Yep, that’s what I get to see out my windshield on this Elite tour and I ain’t complaining none.

In fact, every mile, should humble us.

I know it humbles me.

“…you just call on me brother.”

Lean On Me

Bill Withers