Last week I mentioned that the one overriding emotion I was feeling after winning the 2013 Bassmaster Classic was gratitude. Well, it's still true. I'm incredibly grateful for what the sport has given me throughout my life — as both a hobby and a profession — and for the opportunities that the Classic win will give me moving forward. One of those opportunities is to thank the people who were so instrumental in making it happen.
I met my wife, Brana, when we were in high school. I was friends with her brothers and we went fishing and hunting together. (I was consumed by my love of the outdoors even then.) At some point, though, I began to realize that I wasn't just visiting them to talk about fishing and hunting. I wanted to see Brana, and a relationship developed.
We've been married 13 years now, and I want to tell you that as great as the Classic win was for me, my wedding day was better and much more important. Brana was with me long before my dreams of fishing professionally took shape and become a reality. She knew how important the outdoors were to me and has always supported that passion. I wouldn't be where I am today without her love and support.
You know, a lot has been said about the sacrifices that anglers make to earn a living in this sport — sleeping in their trucks, working multiple jobs to earn entry fee and gas money, having little or no family life — but I think the greater sacrifices are made by the people we love and who love and support us.
My professional fishing career has always been fueled by my passion for fishing. When I'm on the water, I'm living my dream. For Brana and the hundreds of other spouses, parents, children and friends who give their support to someone living that dream, there's no passion or dream behind it — only the love they have for that other person. In my opinion, they're making the greater sacrifice.
Brana and I don't have any children, but we have a "bagle" (part Basset Hound, part beagle) named Hank and a cat named Hook. That's our family.
Brana works as an X-ray technician, so she stays busy here in Petal while I'm on the road. She makes it to a couple of events every year, and she was with me in Tulsa for the Bassmaster Classic. It wouldn't have meant as much without her.
Taking that victory lap with her in the BOK Center was just the latest stretch of a long road we've been traveling together. A career in professional bass fishing can sometimes be rough, and it definitely has its ups and downs, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.
The dream isn't real until you wake up and share it with the people who helped you achieve it.