Everyone needs a dream. Dreams give us something to work for, something to keep our imagination going and something to make us pop out of bed in the morning with great anticipation. That's why I'll find myself sitting in a tree stand 45 minutes before daylight in sub-freezing weather or driving 2,500 miles to catch a fish.
While I've always liked to fish, my Elite dream started while I was attending Louisiana Tech. Our sophomore quarterback, Terry, took me fishing on Lake D'Arbonne, which is just north of the college. He was a second-stringer at the time, but he also had a dream.
While on the water that first trip, we got into a school of bass, and right then I knew the fish weren't the only things that were hooked! That's when my Elite dream was planted. By the way, the young quarterback's dream wasn't about fishing; it was about football. His last name is Bradshaw, and you probably know the rest of his story. He went on to win four Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
I — like many folks who have ever had a bass smash a topwater — wanted to be a professional fisherman. I wanted to test my fishing abilities against the best. In an attempt to improve my chances, I started building lures.
One was a deep diving crankbait which later became the Bagley DB3, the first deep-diver. With the DB3, I had the only lure which would dive deeper than 5 feet. With it, I did pretty well in south Louisiana, where I called home.
Another dream came true when I was living in Baton Rouge. Jim Bagley came to town, and after a short conversation, he offered me a job. For the next four decades I had a great time building lures and watching as other anglers lived out their dreams using my creations. I was able to make a living doing something I really enjoyed and was able to meet folks who I really admired, all in an industry I love.
Jim Bagley was a great man and a great teacher. Under his guidance, Bagley Baits became one of the best lure companies in the country. I will be forever grateful to Jim for all he did for me. Though I was living out a dream back then, I still had the dream and the desire to test my abilities against the best.
Fast-forward 43 years after that first trip with Terry, and I found myself on Lake Texoma in a Central Open. I was on the verge of realizing my dream of fishing with the best. I wound up 6th in the tournament and 4th in the Central Open points standings, qualifying me for the Elite Series. I had a chance to achieve the dream that was planted so long ago — the chance to fish with the best fishermen in the world. Back then, the big names were Dance, Mann, and Martin, and only 30 or 40 anglers in the field were really good. Today the names are VanDam and Reese, and everybody's good!
Even though I'm a 62-year-old rookie, my dream remains the same. In the next six months I will be living my dream, working to make this experience the best it can be. I will fish as hard and smart as possible, putting in long days and doing as much homework as I can because I know nightmares are dreams, too.
I hope to be able to take you along with me so you can share my dream and feel the ups and downs of being a rookie among the best anglers in the world.