Back when I was a little tyke, spending my days in school and fishing in the afternoons, my mother had a rule that she strictly enforced. If I was too sick to go to school, I was too sick to go fishing. All the pleading and crying in the world didn't change her rule. I was probably the only kid in history who insisted on going to school sick. I don't think I missed more than a handful of days in 12 years.
Over the years I've tried to follow Mom's rule. I have a strict agreement with myself. If I don't go to work because I'm too sick, I don't go fishing. Need I tell you that I never miss a day at Signcom when I'm in town?
Last weekend I reached for a tacklebox — that's all I did, reach across my boat for a tacklebox — and went down like a rock. I pulled something in my back that isn't right yet. Regardless, I worked every day here in Columbus so that I could go fishing in the evenings.
It was so bad at one point that I had to walk farm ponds. The pounding and jarring in the boat was just too much for me. While all this was going on I spent a lot of time on the computer watching the doings down in Alabama. It occurred to me that we professional anglers have a tough situation when it comes to sick days. We don't have any! All 12 of those guys fishing the postseason fished every hour of every tournament this year. No one asked them if they had the flu, if their back hurt or if they just didn't feel right.
The tournament dates are set well in advance and they don't change. You fish or you come up short in the standings. That's the way it works. At the same time, every angler on the tour has missed important family events because of how our business works. If you're in a race for a Bassmaster Classic spot, or for the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year, or just trying to make a check to pay the bills back home, you keep fishing.
Family emergencies — within reason — don't count; neither do school or church events. You keep fishing no matter what. That can be tough. Not everyone understands why you aren't there. It can — does — put a strain on family relationships. Don't think for a minute that I'm whining or crying about my life or how I live. I'm not, nor do I think any of the other guys would either. It's just that there's a price to be paid for everything, and this is the one we pay. This business is a lot of fun. There's no better way to spend your life than bass fishing. But it isn't free, not by a long shot.