Only a select few have had a chance to stand on the Bassmaster Classic weigh-in stage on Championship Sunday.
Even fewer have had a chance to stand underneath it.
But that’s exactly where Ellis resident Steven Hausler found himself on March 8 while Hank Cherry Jr. put the finishing touches on a historic Classic victory in Birmingham, Ala., an event that marked the 50th time the "Super Bowl of Bass Fishing" has been contested.
The North Carolina native’s three-day bag was just six ounces shy of the largest weight total in Classic history, a mark set in 2011 by bass fishing legend Kevin VanDam at 69 pounds, 11 ounces.
Cherry beat the rest of the field by more than 10 pounds, with Todd Auten (58-10 total) finishing in second place ahead of Stetson Blaylock (58-1), Seth Feider (54) and Micah Frazier (54).
And Hausler was able to watch it all from an angle most will never experience as he helped transport the weighed fish to oxygenated tanks to recuperate before being released back into the warm waters of Lake Guntersville.
Hausler, who serves as the Kansas BASS Nation conservation director, was asked to work the event while at a two-day conservation summit that coincided with the Classic in Alabama.
"In conjunction with the summit, one of the things the conservation guys do is we will handle the bass and do some of the things backstage during that event," Hausler said. "The fish are basically dropped below the stage and we shuttle them out to tanks that are ready to accept the tanks."
The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division provided the oxygenated stage tanks and oversaw the recovery process, while the volunteers would shuttle the fish from the stage down to the tanks.
"For the entire event, we didn’t lose any fish," Hausler said. "So to keep our track record up on that, that’s pretty much what we did."
Hausler said it was his first time to work the Classic, which has become "kind of a tradition" for the conservation directors who attend the summit.
"It was pretty cool," Hausler said. " ... It was a neat place to be and they had plenty of volunteers, and some of us got to peek out and around the corner and watch the event from up close, too."
Hausler said another exciting part of working the event was the opportunity to meet some of the great anglers of the past and present who are involved with the Classic.
"You’re rubbing shoulders with some big boys," said Hausler, who fishes competitively with the Hays Bass Anglers Association back home in Kansas. "A lot of the guys who are angling there, you get a chance to rub shoulders and meet with them and talk with them, and of course some of the legends of the sport, you have an opportunity to visit with them, too. So you know, it’s a great event, and you know those guys are so humble and giving of their time. They want to share with everybody, and they’re just good ol’ boys."
Hausler also admitted to being "starstruck a little bit" when he got to meet some of the legends he grew up watching.
"You know, when you run into Hank Parker, your heart starts to thump a little bit," he said, laughing. "You get to see some of those guys that you grew up watching, and that’s just pretty neat."