I’ve found that fishing can be a great way to really get to know a person, test their mettle and see what makes them tick. So when I heard that Jim Bartko was coming from the University of Oregon to take the athletic director job at Fresno State, I, like many others, wondered what we were really getting? Through circumstances and the serendipity of having some mutual friends, I got the chance to take the new AD fishing, put him to the test and get to know him better. Here’s my report card.
It started with a lunch we had together, talking about Fresno State sports and my beloved track and field program and it’s future when fishing came up. OK, the first test — What were his feelings about fishing? I learned he loved it and had taken many trout and salmon trips. Adding to that acid test, I casually asked the next key question. “Jim, would you like to go striper fishing sometime?” In a nanosecond he enthusiastically shot back: “Give me some times and we’ll go!” Wow! No hesitation. Just pure excitement! I liked this guy a lot already.
He had not only come from an uber-successful program at Oregon, he also struck me, so far, as an unassuming, personable “ready to hit it,” down-in-the-dirt angler! From my personal perspective as an athlete and an angler, it was a winning combination of assets and a great start!
We met at 7 a.m. in dense fog and took off for the lake, with Marek Warszawski, The Bee’s sports columnist, in tow in his car. I now had 11/2 hours alone with Jim, both ways, to talk one-on-one and learn his vision for the sports program, his goals and (most importantly) about his fishing background. In just a few minutes (it seemed), we were driving down to launch.
Jim had done this before. Because when he got in the boat and took off, it was cold and we were going over 50 mph, but I noticed he didn’t complain. Many do! Hmm …, he knew how to “take it” as well as not acting privileged. He was there to fish. Point noted and given!
The conditions were overcast and dismal, but we were excited as I headed for the “trash racks” to see if they were doing any pumping. But the pumps were off and the bite was dead, So much for that spot; I had to go to work now and find the fish! I told Jim and Marek my ace card had folded, but we were going to go hunting now. I watched to see how Jim would handle it, but his reply was, “This is fishing, not catching!” Good attitude and a better fishing partner. Big points!
I finally found some fish and tried trolling through them, but they weren’t cooperating. Relief arrived, however, when I finally saw we had a fish on. No skunk today! Jim brought in his first-ever striper and he handled the pole and fish pretty well. More major points! The fish suddenly started biting and for the next two hours we landed them on a regular basis with 15 fish to 23 inches. Guys next to us were not happy but we were having a blast! I continued to caution them about being ready if we hooked a big striper.
It was about 2 p.m. and the 21st fish slammed the bait, pegging the big rod and screaming the drag as I handed it over to Jim. I was very concerned that the big fish would get off! “Yeah, Roger lost a big one right at the boat for the new AD,” I thought. That wasn’t gonna cut it — close didn’t count! Jim patiently kept the pole up, let the fish run and then worked it in as I netted the fat 13-pound striper! Mission accomplished.
Jim has proven beyond a shadow of doubt that he can build a successful athletic program, but the real question we all pose at the end of the day is, what kind of a person are you really following? Seriously, after spending over 12 hours fishing, talking and catching, I would follow Jim Bartko into battle, or fishing, any day of the week! Does that answer your question?
Delta striper, sturgeon, and bass bites in full swing, Alan Fong said. New Melones kicking out big bass, John Lietchy reported. Don Pedro bass and trout bites attracting anglers, Manny Basi said. Lake Success bass hitting, Chuck Stokke reported.