This will be my last column about the Delaware River. Before I put it to bed, however, I want to say thanks to the people who made that win possible.
First, I want to acknowledge my grandfather and my uncle Don. They took me fishing on the river and its tributaries. I learned how to fish with them but more importantly I learned to appreciate fishing and the outdoors.
The next thanks goes out to my immediate family. They’ve stuck with me through the good times and through the bad times. That kind of support can’t be measured.
Becky deserves special mention. I’ve had a few tough years. She never wavered in her support of me, fish or no fish. And, as a mother she’s the best. When I compete I can do it with a clear mind. I know that she has the family taken care of and that if anything does happen she’ll handle it. That makes a big difference.
Next, are the guys who were with me when it all started. I saw several of them in the crowd on Sunday. One was a fellow I fished with from the back of the boat before I had my own. Go get them, Top Rod Bassmasters.
I also want to say thanks to everyone who helped me learn to fish rivers, especially the Delaware. What I learned from them has made a huge difference in my career.
What about the fans? I have to say that they were beyond anything I could have hoped for. It’s hard to put my emotions into words. Going to the weigh-in every afternoon and hearing them screaming and cheering, as well as seeing all the signs and bigheads was something I’ll never forget. This victory was truly for all the fish-heads in that crowd.
I’ll also admit to a little pride in knowing that there are that many people out there who want to see me win.
The next thing I want to say is about B.A.S.S. It took a lot of guts to schedule a tournament out of Philadelphia on the Delaware River. That’s not a traditional venue — big city, wild river. As a guy who sometimes does things in a nontraditional way I have to say that I admire that in others.
They brought big-time tournament fishing to the Northeast. Some people didn’t think it would work. They were wrong. It did work. We fish up here and we enjoy it as much as anglers from other parts of the country.
The last thanks goes to the other Elite Series and Open anglers. They are really good. There’s no such thing as resting on your laurels with these guys. You either get better and are able to compete or they eat your lunch. Without that pressure and unrelenting competition I would never have developed the skills to win.
I’m not just saying that. It’s absolutely true. If there’s anyone reading this who wants to get better, one of the first thinks you should do is fish with guys who are as good as, or better than, you. I’ve had the privilege of doing that. I’m better for it.
That’s enough. The Delaware River is history. It’s time to oil my reels, spool new line and sharpen hooks. Cayuga Lake prefishing starts in the morning.