I’m 26 years old, 5’ 11” and weigh 265 pounds. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, I am officially obese. The target weight for a young man my age is around 180 pounds, my fighting weight back in the infamous high school football days. Today, however, I’m roughly one Big Mac away from developing a serious set of man boobs.
I’ve always fished competitively, and my time on the road has increased year after year. After high school I joined the bass fishing team at Auburn University where I fished everywhere from Texas to Okeechobee. After a few close calls at national titles, it was time for graduation and I then stepped up to the mid-level circuits broadening my horizons a few hundred more miles.
This year, I’ve covered the Elite Series and Carhartt College Series for B.A.S.S. while fishing the EverStart Series and Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens. I’ve spent about 190 days on the road already this year; needless to say, those days didn’t help me form any healthy habits. It’s plain hard to maintain good habits on the road let alone form any and that is a perfect and all too often accepted excuse for being unhealthy.
Let’s face it; I’m not alone in this industry. I’m overweight and the more I look around the more I realize, so is everybody else. Everybody is a term I use loosely here to refer to the vast majority.
As anglers, we pay the utmost attention to every detail when it comes to gaining the slightest competitive advantage. We pay an extra 3 bucks to swap out perfectly good hooks on a crankbait for ones that have been laser sharpened, furnace hardened and mechanically engineered.
But, for some reason, we won’t take 15 minutes out of our day for a little exercise or to prepare a decent meal. It’s inconvenient, and we don’t have time. Instead, we pull through a fast food restaurant or convenience store and stuff our faces with whatever is readily available, never stopping to think about how those decisions affect our game on the water.
The next time you’re at a local tournament full of weekend anglers, take a quick glance at the crowd and conduct a little informal survey. I have and I’d put the figure on overweight anglers around 85%. Now do the same survey at an Open. The number drops down to about 75%. Now take a look at the Elite Series anglers. After working with them for a year, I can account firsthand that the number of overweight anglers plummets to around 30%. And you don’t think your physical fitness affects your fishing?
Admitting you have a problem is the first step in rectifying that problem. After some serious soul searching, I have taken that first step. I have a family history of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Complications from all three can be attributed, at least in some part, to obesity. Add to that my lifestyle on the road and my insatiable appetite for anything smothered, buttered and covered, and you have a ticking time bomb.
Traveling with the Elite Series staff this year, a running joke has been established that Shaye Baker will not eat a vegetable. My personality allows me to laugh off all the fat jokes and dish out some witty comeback as to how I could lose the weight but that the naysayer is stuck with that ugly face of theirs for life.
At the end of the day, I realize that their jabs at me were a rooted in a legitimate concern for my well being. Their remarks spawned an idea that I then proposed to B.A.S.S. chief digital guy Jim Sexton. Let’s start a blog of sorts on Bassmaster.com – one that gives anglers a resource to pull from. One that can help us as a sport to improve our game. Let’s have insight from top pros on how they find time to eat right and work out. Let’s share health conscious recipes that won’t kill you and won’t make you want to kill yourself. Let’s not talk about the problem but instead offer real world solutions.