Every year, I start my fishing season with a few goals. Actually, they're dreams because they're not just professional accomplishments or checklist kinds of things, but things I've worked toward and hoped for ever since I was a kid.
I've realized some of my career dreams, like winning the Bassmaster Classic in 2008, but others have eluded me.
By far, the biggest of my fishing dreams today is to win the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year award. It's the pinnacle of accomplishment in my industry, and a title that everyone wants but which has to be earned, tournament by tournament, weigh-in by weigh-in, fish by fish.
If you saw the results from the St. Lawrence River, you know I finished 58th. That essentially means I'm out of the hunt for the Angler of the Year award for another season. It was a disappointing moment — always is.
For every Elite angler but one, the dream of AOY dies at some point during the season. A terrible finish in the opener can all but kill it before things really get started. I feel fortunate that my dream lasted until the seventh of eight tournaments.
Of course, it's a bad feeling when you have to give up on a dream like that because it'll be months before I can bring it back to life. At the same time, I can't let it drag me down or adversely affect my performance because I still have work to do. We have one tournament left, and there are other dreams and goals I still want to realize and accomplish.
I'm currently seventh in the AOY race, and that puts me just inside the cut to make Toyota All-Star Week. As you may know, the reigning Bassmaster Classic champ, Bassmaster Rookie of the Year and top eight anglers in the AOY race all get invitations to compete. Four other anglers will be voted in by the fans. Much as I appreciate my fans and all the support they give me, I want to earn my way to All-Star Week on points, and I can do that with a good finish at the season finale on Lake St. Clair.
My poor performance at the St. Lawrence River, though, came as something of a surprise to me. I had a great practice — probably my best of the entire year. But when the tournament started and I went to my primary area (I found it late on the last day of practice, and two presentations with a drop shot produced two 5 pounders!) I caught just a couple of 12-inchers, and the other spots I had nearby only gave me a small limit.
I tried adjusting my baits and line size, but nothing helped to upgrade my catch. With just over 17 pounds on the first day, I knew I'd be around the bubble to make the first cut. Unfortunately for me, things got worse on Day 2, and I was headed home.
Which brings me to my next and far more important topic.
It's a very special week here in the Jones household. We're sending our daughter, Kristen, off to college tomorrow (Friday). She'll be attending Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, and plans to pursue an education in international business and law.
It's humbling and really puts life in perspective to think that Kristen came into our lives a little more than 18 years ago. I'll always remember it as one of the greatest days of my life, but it was also more than a little scary and intimidating to bring a new life into the world. As many of you know, that's a lot of responsibility and a lot of commitment.
My wife Jimmye Sue and I have been blessed, though. Kristen has grown into a wonderful young woman, and we're extremely proud of her. We know she has a bright future, and I'm looking forward to watching her grow as an adult.
Tonight, we'll have a special dinner for Kristen — just the immediate family — and we'll talk about where she's been and where she's going. I'll drive her to campus tomorrow, and she'll set out on a new path toward realizing her own dreams in life.
She's already helped me realize many of mine.