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Off-the-Clock: M.I.T.’s Rick Player on fishing and fellowship

on May 9 | in News | by | with No Comments

Article originally appeared in May Medical Dealer 2012


imgresRick Player loves to fish. When he was old enough, he started bass fishing at local clubs in Augusta, Ga. Winners got to fish up, and Player became good enough to compete on the Red Man Tournament Trail in the early 1980s, touring the southeast as far west as Texas and as far north as Kentucky. He was even sponsored by Daiwa Reels.


He won a few tournaments and a few big prizes, including a $15,000 cash purse and a 12-horsepower motor, which he flipped for another $12,000. But after two years, Player just wasn’t able to make a go of it. He needed more than a long weekend to pre-fish the tournament lakes, and with a job at Philips Medical Systems, Player just didn’t have the time to take.


When Player fishes these days, he does it for fun. Although he never made the next-level, which would have been Bass Masters, he owns his own business now: Medical Imaging Technologies of Thomson, Ga. Now Player gets to fish more regularly at his local recreational lake, which just happens to be the second largest east of the Mississippi. Clark’s Hill Reservoir is 37 miles up the Savannah River leg, 24 up the Little River leg, 309 feet deep, and full of bass, shell-crackers and catfish.


Player describes his fishing in seasonal terms.


January through March, he cranks baitfish. By early April, when the fish bed in the shallows—and everybody fishes—he transitions to plastic baits. In June, July and August, the bass transition into deep water and only occasionally chase the shad up into the shallows. At Clark’s Hill, fall fishing is as good as spring fishing, with the fish fattening up for winter.


“Typically, a day for me will be getting out at the water, running the points and working my way down,” Player says. “If you find them down on the points, fish that area; if you find them in the coves, fish the coves. Fish are like human beings: 90 percent of them live in 10 percent of the lake.”


Player uses a chart plotter and a depth finder. Still, “there’s nothing like working a bait,” he says.


“I like fishing up the Little River leg and Cherokee Creek,” he says. “You could fish either one of those creeks the rest of your life and do just fine. You might talk to somebody from South Carolina who tells you the Modoc area is the best, but I fish close to the house. There’s all the fish you could ever want.”


Player likes to eat fish as much as he likes to catch them; when he spoke to MD, he was preparing for a fish fry with 20 guests after landing 90-plus brim and bass the day before with his 15-year-old stepdaughter, Anna. The Players filet them and deep-fry them to serve with cheese grits, coleslaw, hush puppies and French fries.


“If you’re out with your buddy and some cold beer… there’s just nothing like being on the lake,” he says. “It’s relaxing. You can go out, float around, catch a few fish, have something to eat, and fellowship up with each other.”


Fellowship is another privilege of success, but Player would have come by it even if he were a terrible fisherman. The next property over from his homestead belongs to Mark Peters, and the two soon found they share a common viewpoint on just about everything recreational.


Peters, an electrician by trade, had lived in the area for more than a decade when Player moved in. Their children then grew up together. Peters’ wife, Christine, even went to work as Player’s officer manager at Medical Imaging Technologies, and it wasn’t long after that Peters came to join him at the business as well. That was about 12 years ago.


“I went to work with Rick, bought into the company with him, and now we hang out 24/7,” Peters laughs. “Our property lines butt right up against each other. You’re just far enough away but you’re close enough. We’ve always had a little neighborhood.”


Everything the two families do—dove shoots, fox hunts, corn roasts, fishing trips, even weeks-long vacations—they do together. Community, church friends and family all come over to cook something on the grill and share some laughs, Peters says.


“It’s a unique relationship,” he says. “If Rick and his family go on vacation to Aruba for a week or something, that’s probably the longest that we’re apart from each other. We have so much in common I guess; we really enjoy doing the same things.”


Peters describes Player and their relationship in glowing terms. The two thrive as business partners because of their complementary skill sets; as friends, they succeed, Peters says, because “without the camaraderie, it’s like going to play golf by yourself.”


“He’ll do anything for me and I’ll do anything for him, and we rotate back and forth a little bit,” Peters says. “He knows he can trust me and I know I can trust him. Any decision that I make, he’s comfortable with, and any decision that he makes I’m comfortable with.


“Having a really great friend, somebody you can count on, you’re not trying to plan things out,” he says. “It comes natural. Not too many people get the pleasure in life of having a business partner, and a fishing partner, and a hunting buddy all in one person, and we both have that.”


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