Recently, my daughter was trying to write an essay for acceptance into a scholarship hall at the University of Kansas. (Can someone tell me how I got to be old enough to have a son who is a senior in college and a daughter who is a senior in high school trying to decide what college to attend? But I digress.)
She seemed to be struggling, and I asked her what the essay was about. She said they wanted to know how her "life experiences" would contribute to the house if they chose to accept her. She said she didn't have any life experience. I said, "Sure you do!" I pointed out that she was raised in a very small town in Missouri and went to a school that was big on tradition. Then, after I took the job with B.A.S.S. and we moved to Florida, she had to make the transition to living in a big city and going to a big high school that was only a few years old. The school had very few traditions and, quite frankly, was not very good at anything. Over the years, the school has gotten progressively better at all aspects and the students have begun their own traditions. I told her she was part of that — and not a lot of people get to experience both ends of the spectrum the way she did.
She didn't buy it, and I probably wouldn't have at that age, either.
But, that got me thinking about my "life experiences" with B.A.S.S. I fished my first tournament as a 19-year-old in Concordia, Kan. I got a late start: We didn't have opportunities when I was young to compete in a Junior Bassmaster club or on a high school or college fishing team. That tournament I fished was a buddy tournament in which we kept all our fish from area ponds, and the team with the most weight won. My buddy, Jeff, and I won second place, and I was hooked! (Pardon the pun.)
That was 26 years ago. From there, I joined the Salina Bassmasters in Salina, Kan. I thought I was going to be the next Hank Parker; KVD had only fished a couple of B.A.S.S. events back then; I'm not even sure they called him KVD yet!
For several years, I tried to make it as a tournament angler, until I got talked into running for an officer position in our club. I quickly discovered that I enjoyed organizing and helping others enjoy this great sport almost as much as I did competing! (Notice I said 'almost.')
After a few years as a club officer, I decided I was going to work for B.A.S.S. one day. I ran for office on the state level and became the president of the Kansas Bass Federation. As the Kansas state president, I went through the sale of B.A.S.S. from Ray Scott to Helen Sevier and from Helen Sevier to ESPN.
Then my greatest life experience — with the exception of getting married and having two kids — happened, and I was given the opportunity to work for B.A.S.S. on the new Bassmaster Weekend Series. I moved from that small town in Missouri to Montgomery, Ala., and later to Celebration, Fla.
Along the way, I have had enough life experiences to write a thick book on. The one common thread in my life since I was 19 is B.A.S.S. Now, we are embarking on a new chapter with our new owners, Jerry McKinnis, Don Logan and Jim Copeland. I will tell you I am as excited about B.A.S.S. today as I was that day 26 years ago at that first tournament I fished, or as that day in August 2004 when I got the call asking me to come work for B.A.S.S.
I can't wait to share some new life experiences with this new ownership group, and I hope my daughter has as many great life experiences as I have had with this great organization.