Several months ago I had a business trip that took me to a really cool place called Honey Lake Plantation (www.honeylakeplantation.com). The plantation is towards the southern end of the Red Hills region that spans South Georgia through North Florida. The towns of Thomasville, Monticello and Tallahassee are well known to sportsmen as well as athletes. Although it needs no introduction, ACC powerhouse Florida State University is in Tallahassee.
I had a number of meetings that spanned a few days, and when we were done I had the opportunity to step out for a little R and R courtesy of the plantation’s owner, Bob Williamson. Williamson has been an entrepreneur his entire life and business is important to him. But he’s a life-long sportsman, too, so spending a morning in the field followed by an afternoon on the ponds and lake were of equal importance. The adage of you’ll never know who you’ll run in to” was true that day, and when I left my room for breakfast, I encountered two legendary athletes who I remembered playing pro ball when I was a kid.
The first was former Atlanta Falcon’s quarterback Steve Bartkowski. I was a 7th grade middle linebacker and remember everyone going crazy when Bartkowski was signed #1 in the NFL draft (which was ahead of Walter Payton, 1975). Bartkowski wasted no time in picking apart defensive secondaries, and at Honey Lake Plantation, he showed no mercy in the trophy bass department either. While athletics were an integral part of his life, Bartkowski grew up as an avid sportsman and conservationist. He’ll fish for anything anywhere anytime, and is comfortable with a wide variety of tackle. Check out this good bass, one of several he caught. He caught a number of really big bream, too.
The other retired athlete was former Pittsburgh Pirate Bob Svetich. My uncle lived outside of Pittsburgh, and when I visited him we used to go to games at the old Three Rivers Stadium. Bob and his twin brother Ronn were playing in the Iron City in the mid-late 1970’s, too. After retiring, Bob launched an outdoor travel business called the Outdoor Group (www.theoutdoorgroupinc.com). His brother stayed in baseball and is currently a coach for the Colorado Rockies. Bob spends a significant amount of his year fishing. Whether it’s for trout in the Colorado rivers and streams, walleye through the ice, or bonefish in the Bahamas, it doesn’t take much convincing to get Bob to hit the water. Like Bartkowski, he’s got an incredible focus and made short work of a number of plate-sized bream and a few big bass.
These two guys are great ambassadors for our sport. They told me that hard and consistent work is their friend, and that they spend as much of it on their angling as they did their athletics. We had some friendly competitions for sure, but in the end they were both team players which made for a terrific day on the water.
Tom Keer is an award-winning freelance writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He regularly writes for over a dozen magazines, and is the contributing editor of Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America and a columnist for The Upland Almanac. His book a “Flyfisher’s Guide to the New England Coast” was published by Wilderness Adventures Press in 2010. Visit him at www.tomkeer.com or at www.thekeergroup.com.