Kevin Short is one of my favorite Elite Series anglers, the type of guy I’d like even if we didn’t have fishing in common. He is whip smart and highly opinionated – and even if I don’t agree with his position, I can always trust it to be well-considered and reasonably conveyed. No gossip, just precise analysis.
If I was trying to put together a three-man team of Elite Series anglers to compete in a Jeopardy-style contest, he’d be an early draft pick. He’d be equally high on the board if we were putting together a search committee for the next MacGyver.
His wife, Kerry, who I’ve gotten to know a little bit over the past year, seems equally direct and equally savvy. I’m sure that while Kevin is the one who finds the fish, hooks the fish and weighs in the fish, he would attribute a sizeable portion of any success he experiences to their partnership. She’s the glue.
They have already been through almost unspeakable tragedy in their life together, losing their daughter Michelle just 10 years and one month ago in a horrible car crash. I know that Kevin doesn’t discuss it much, and he may want to kill me for writing this, but I’m pretty certain that their loss of Michelle almost led him to abandon his career in professional fishing. He almost made the call to go back to work for the Arkansas Farm Bureau, or some similar 9-to-5 respectable gig, and just fish local weekend derbies when the mood hit him – if indeed it ever hit him again. And that’s why I hurt for them now, with the news that their house was seriously damaged by the tornadoes that ravaged Mayflower, Arkansas, on Sunday. No family deserves either of those awful occurrences, let alone both of them.
Kevin and Kerry are not the self-pitying type, but I’m sure right now you’d have to ask not only “Why us?” but also “Why now?”
If he’d gone back to work at the Farm Bureau, or selling insurance, or some other mundane day-to-day job, wearing the pink dress shirt that spawned an identity, he’d have sick days and annual leave to allow him to pick up the pieces. There would likely be co-workers who could pick up the slack. On the Elite Series, though, you are a one-man show, even if you have a good woman propping you up. If you don’t fish, you don’t earn. If you don’t practice, you probably don’t do well. It doesn’t matter how good your excuse may be – the events are set for a particular time and if life gets in the way, them’s the breaks.
Tournament fishing is a cruel mistress. I’m reminded about the old Seinfeld bit about the differences between coffee and alcohol:
Coffee's a drink that seems to encourage a lot of accessories around it. Coffee cake, coffee table, coffee table book, clutches of people. Say what you want about alcohol, but not only are there not a lot of optional accessories, alcohol actually helps you get rid of things. Family, home, job, driver's license. In fact, at a certain point, the only thing you have to remember to get, is more alcohol. And maybe a rag for your squeegee.
In a sport like golf, there’s no real social cost. You go, you play, you drink a beer or three at the 19th hole. Fishing? While not necessarily as potentially harmful as alcohol, it is nevertheless a commitment to losing things. If you have to get up at 3 a.m. on Saturday to drive 200 miles to fish all day in the rain, you’re not going to be much fun on Friday night. After you decline a few such invitations, the invitations stop coming. Then you get home and the fun continues. Everyone’s going out to dinner and a movie. If you were a golfer, the biggest crisis might be getting that splotch of artichoke dip off of your good plaid pants and missing the coming attractions. As a fisherman, though, you’ll spend the evening madly searching for a replacement bilge pump and then finding a way to wire the non-conforming pump cartridge into your existing set up. No popcorn for you!