By the time you read this, I’ll be on the water at Bull Shoals looking for a livewell full of big bass to start the rest of my season. I couldn’t be more excited or more positive. This is what I live for and why I get up in the morning, except for Becky and all of the kids, of course. We’ll talk some more about that in a minute.
Once Bull Shoals is history, I’ll be fishing three more, one right after the other. In total, there are three Elite tournaments and an Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open. I can use the Elites to get my points up and get back in contention for the Classic. All I need is two or three Top 30 finishes while, at the same time, avoiding another complete disaster. And there’s always the chance that I’ll win the Open and get an automatic berth.
I know it sounds crazy but I’m really glad my schedule is set up that way. After the worst start in my 15 years of professional bass fishing, I want to get back to basics. That’s about fishing hard every day with a positive attitude. There’s no doubt in my mind that I can recover from this. My second day on Falcon proved that. I caught a pretty good sack.
Even if I don’t recover, though, it’ll be OK. You see, I’m liberated. I now have fishing in perspective. I see catching bass the way I should have seen catching them all my life.
Here’s the thing: I’ve never come as close to death as I did on the Sabine River. It scared the daylights out of me. I know I’ve said that before but I want to make sure everyone understands how profoundly it affected me. It made me think about what’s really important in my life. I have no difficulty listing my priorities now.
It’s one thing to wake up in the morning and have a tough day on the water. That’s bad. I’ll give you that. But it’s a different ballgame to not wake up at all. That’s a lot worse than bad. If I’d been killed, I wouldn’t be able to see Becky again or see my four kids grow up to become adults. Heck, I’d like to be a granddad someday.
So here’s what I’m going to say, and I mean every single word of it. If I don’t catch another fish the rest of the year, I’ll be fine. I’m not saying I want that to happen or that I’ll be happy about it. What I am saying is that I can live with it. (Live is the operative word, guys.) You see, even without fish I’ll be able to open my eyes in the morning and spend time with my family and enjoy being around them.
It’s rare for me to give anyone personal advice. I just don’t do it. But this is an exception. I’ll tell you right now — there’s nothing more important than your family. Don’t ever let anything else get in the way. Treasure every moment you have with them. It can be taken away from you in a heartbeat.