Berger had an Eye on Fire & Smoke

By: Keith Ryan Cartwright June 09, 2014@ 02:40:00 PM

Fire & Smoke caught the attention of Chad Berger from the get go. Photo by Andy Watson /

FORT WORTH, Texas ― If you’re trying to find Chad Berger during a Built Ford Tough Series event, there’s only one place you need to look: behind the chutes, near the alleyway and up against the front railing where he can get a good look at the bulls before, during and after their out.

The lifelong bull man likes to not only keep an eye on his own stock, but, like a lot of other contractors, he’s interested in seeing what everyone else is bring to the events.

He’s also back in the bull-buying business for the first time in the past few years.

Five months ago, at a BFTS event in Oklahoma City, he had a front row view of Fire & Smoke. As soon as the bull cleared the gate Berger thought he saw something, so he repositioned himself to watch the replay on the big screen and that’s when he noticed it.

By it, he meant the loose flank strap.

Loose or not, Fire & Smoke still bucked off veteran Billy Robinson in 5.86 seconds and was marked 44.25 points in his first professional outing.

“I thought, ‘Wow, that bull has a lot of action, really bucks,’ and I noticed he didn’t have any flank in him at all,” Berger recalled. “It was almost dangling underneath.”

Although the bull might not have turned too many other heads that night, Berger thought Fire & Smoke was impressive for how loose the flank was.

A few weeks later, he watched him two more times in St. Louis.

In the opening round he bucked off Douglas Duncan in less than two seconds. He was marked 44.25 points again and, more importantly, earned another trip on Sunday afternoon to the third round, where he bucked off Sean Willingham in less than three seconds to earn his first 45-point mark of the season.

“That’s when I went after the bull,” said Berger. “I thought with a little more flank this bull could be a superstar.”

VIDEO: Fire & Smoke tosses Valdiron de Oliveira

He obviously didn’t mention the loose flank theory to anyone.

In fact, oftentimes finding the next great bull is as much about seeing potential as it is knowing what adjustments to make in an effort to maximize that potential. However, it’s important to know you can’t make them all better.

Berger said after acquiring Modified Clyde and Cowtown Slinger, it was about maintaining the level they had already achieved.

However, if they look like great athletes and he can see something that might make them that much better, those are the bulls Berger goes after when he’s in a buying mode like he was earlier this year.

Berger bought Fire & Smoke from Harvey Bierema, the White River, South Dakota, contractor who also raised Slim Shady back in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

By that point, Berger just wanted to get possession of the bull.

Explaining that if the flank is pulled too tight you have nowhere to go with it, Berger said he likes to start his bulls off with a light snug when it comes to the flank.

Since then, Fire & Smoke bucked seven times.

He’s been marked 45 points or better in his last four outs, including a career best 46.5 points in Des Moines, Iowa, when he bucked off Cody Nance in 3.25 seconds.

“I’m just so proud of that bull,” Berger said. “He’s going to be one of our featured bulls in Bismarck.”

Berger’s annual event in Bismarck, North Dakota, is this coming weekend.

In addition to a stellar lineup of bull riders, including former World Champions Mike Lee and Guilherme Marchi, the pen is as stout as any Touring Pro Division event in the country and, by all accounts, comparable to that of a BFTS event.

The highlight, however, will be the $100,000 matchup featuring two-time World Champion Bull Bushwacker and four-time PRCA champion-turned-PBR contender J.W. Harris.

The much-talked about $100,000 Copper Tires Champions Challenge will take place Friday night and for those not in attendance at the Bismarck Civic Center, PBR fans around the world can watch it on PBR LIVE. Click here to sign up.

Fire & Smoke will be among the top bulls competing Saturday night in the championship round.

Berger said he’ll take Fire & Smoke to a few TPD events – half dozen or so compared to the 10 to 12 he’ll haul the others to – this summer before resuming the BFTS in mid-August.

“I don’t want to buck him too hard,” Berger said. “I want to make a fall run with him at the Built Ford Tough (Series events) and expose him. They’re all talking about him now, how rank he is and stuff.”

In closing, Berger softly predicted, “If Fire & Smoke continues to do what he’s doing that he is going to be a top contender for bull of the year.”

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