What a year this has been! I dreamed most of my life about being a Bassmaster Classic champion. But, in truth, I had no idea what it would really be like. It’s amazing. The thing that really sticks out in my mind is the recognition and respect I’ve gotten this year.
Regardless of whether I’m around a ramp, in a tackle shop, at an airport or just driving down the road, someone knows who I am and what I accomplished last February on the Red River. I’ll tell you what, the Classic is bigger than a lot of people think. Heck, even my dad’s cousin saw me on a highway in Florida and pulled me over for autographed hats and pictures.
The other thing that’s happened is that I have a new sense of confidence about my fishing. I don’t hesitate as much on the water because I know I can catch them and compete with the best. Don’t misunderstand me, though. I’m not arrogant or conceited about it. It’s just this inner feeling that I can get the job done, that success is up to me.
Another thing about winning the Classic is the money. It’s made a big difference in my life and how I approach my responsibilities to my family. We were able to buy a house and invest in another piece of property with my parents. At the same time I’ve opened the Chris Lane Outdoor Store here in Guntersville — we have both hunting and fishing equipment — and will be releasing an app at the Bassmaster Classic Outdoor Expo this year.
I don’t want to come across as overbearing about the money but we all know that in this country you need money to live. You don’t have to be rich but you do have to have enough to pay the light bill. I have that now. It’s a big weight off my mind. If I have a bad tournament, it’s just that. It doesn’t put any financial stress on my wife and kids. You guys with families will understand what I’m saying.
But maybe the biggest thing of all is just being a Bassmaster Classic champion. You know, being able to say that. It’s something every bass angler has dreamed about at one time or another during his or her life. Football players want to win a Super Bowl and baseball players want to win a World Series. Bass anglers want to win a Classic.
It’s a feeling like no other. I’ll never forget walking across that stage and realizing that I’d won. It took me a month to get straightened out after that, and even now I sometimes have trouble wrapping my head around it.
Anyway, I want to say thanks to B.A.S.S. for making the Classic what it is and to my sponsors for sticking with me over the years, and especially to all the fans for their support. It’s been a great ride. Maybe we can do it again sometime.