A lot of fans ask me what life on the road is like for a professional fisherman. Well, there are definitely some unique aspects to this lifestyle, but I’ve come to realize that some things I’ve learned about staying at and fishing waters all across the country can also apply to any angler, whether he travels once a year or once a month.
Here are some of the most important lessons I’ve learned about traveling to and staying at different locations.
The first thing I do when I arrive at a new tournament town is to purchase a local fishing license. Sometimes we need multiple licenses, depending on the waters we're fishing, but I'll get all that squared away first because if I can't legally fish, there's not much point in making the trip.
The next thing I do is to check out the local launch ramps during daylight hours to make sure I know how to get there in the morning darkness. I also want to identify any tricky turns or other driving hazards so there are no surprises when it's time to go fishing.
It's also important to identify the local gas stations, tackle shops and hardware stores. I know I'll need fuel every day, and even though I try to prepare thoroughly before hitting the road, you never know when you'll need to replace or repair something.
Once I get these logistical details squared away, I find the local grocery store and stock up on a week's worth of food. On the road, I room with my fellow Elite Series angler Edwin Evers, and we like to eat healthy meals that we prepare ourselves. My fans know I love a good Mexican restaurant, but I’ve found that preparing my own meals fits best into my tournament schedule.
Edwin and I don't have any formalized plan for who cooks when – we just share the duties and get it done. One thing we've done a lot is use a Crock Pot to cook our evening meals while we're on the water. We've found that it's really easy to load the pot with meats and vegetables in the morning before leaving for practice or a tournament day and come home to a healthy dinner that's ready when we get there.
This is an important part of the traveling regimen because of the timing we face. I practice from daylight 'til dark, and tournament days aren’t any shorter. By the time I get through weigh-ins, straighten up my tackle and handle any media or sponsor needs, it's pretty late by the time I get home. I try to get to bed by 9-9:30 p.m. so I'm well rested for the next day, so there's just no time to go out to dinner, and fast food just isn't a good idea when you're trying to stay healthy. Trust me, when you're on the road a lot, the Crock Pot is your friend.
Now, I jumped ahead a little by covering those previous points, but I wanted to save the best for last — the lodging. Accommodations vary from town to town, but whenever possible I prefer renting a house rather than staying at a hotel. The reason is simple — it just feels more like home when you have your own room, your own private parking lot and at least some degree of seclusion from noise and the risk of theft or boat damage.
I love what I do for a living — let me make sure I'm clear about that point. But even in this dream job there's a lot of pressure, plenty of distractions and fatigue. If you let yourself get run down, tired and irritable, you'll have a tough time maintaining the focus and stamina that you must have to perform at your highest level.
I've stayed at hotels and I wouldn’t say that they’ve directly impeded my performance. I'm just saying that the more creature comforts you can allow yourself on the road, the better you'll handle the physical and mental challenges that go hand-in-hand with this lifestyle.
Along those lines, one of the most important features that a rental house can have is a covered driveway. I like this because it allows me to keep my boat clean and protected without having to cover it every night.
In a way, it’s like being home and working on my boat in the comfort of my garage. Also, if I get a crazy idea late at night on how to catch fish the next day, I can go out and rig up some baits in the comfort of a covered, lighted area.
Once in a while, I enjoy the great blessing of having my family visit me on the road. No matter where I’m staying, nothing makes my road trips more enjoyable than coming home every evening to the most important people in my life. I particularly appreciate these visits when I’m on the road for several weeks in a row. When my family visits me during one of these long stretches, it breaks up the time we’re apart and makes it feel more like two shorter trips.
I’ll admit, there's nothing like being home with your family and sleeping in your own bed. But when it's time to hit the road, paying attention to the logistical points and affording yourself some creature comforts will make the trip more enjoyable and keep you in good shape to catch that next fish.