I’ve been asked a thousand times why I fish. I’ve never had a standard answer. My motives change from time to time. All that might have changed this past week, however. I may have finally nailed it down after years of struggle.
Sunday a week ago, I was waiting for practice on Bull Shoals to start. Bored, I started to think about where I could wet a line. I decided to try the trout down below the dam. I’d been watching some guys do it and it looked like fun. I picked up the phone and called Dustin Wilks. I did that without thinking, much like you put your keys in your pocket as you walk out the door.
Back in the day, well before the Elites, we used to travel together with another fellow named, Chris Elliott. Over the years, we developed a real friendship. We’re both hopeless fishing addicts and we both love farm ponds.
He told me he couldn’t go because he had tackle to get ready. I went alone. After a while, I realized bass tackle wasn’t going to get it. I went into town to upgrade. As I was leaving the store, my phone rang. It was Dustin. He said he couldn’t stand it anymore. He was going to join me.
We met below the dam with the usual good cheer. Of course, we went back and forth about who would catch the first fish. Several of the other anglers who were fishing along the shore overhead us. They thought it was great sport. I’m guessing they’d never been around professional bass anglers. They obviously didn’t know how competitive we are.
Anyway, we fished for a few minutes. I caught the first one. I went running up to him like a little kid with his first fish. All Dustin could do was shake his head and pretend that it didn’t matter. It was great fun. We laughed and caught little trout all afternoon.
Relationships like that are what this business is all about, at least for me. Over the past decades, I’ve met a few men who genuinely changed my life. Dustin is one of them. He’s a good man with high morals who loves to fish. And he has the dedication to make this sport work for him. His past elbow problem illustrates what I mean when I say that.
This is a man who was hurt. It wasn’t minor. It wasn’t something you fight your way through. I didn’t say much about it at the time but I was worried about my friend. His condition was never far from my mind. Tracey and I talked about it often. But he had surgery, followed the doctor’s orders, and he’s back.
Believe me when I tell you that was no small thing. If he can work through his problem we can work through ours. I know there’s a serious side to professional bass fishing. But, for me, a big part of it is developing friendships with men like Dustin Wilks. It’s why I fish.