Randy Howell is our new Classic champion. I know it was a photo finish, that he came from behind, had huge sacks of fish and that he’s a really nice guy with a really nice family. But that’s not the story I want to tell.
First, let’s get his name right. It isn’t Randy Howell. Forget everything you’ve heard and read about that. His name is Patches.
The story is that when he was a kid, growing up around Lake Gaston, he showed up at all the local tournaments wearing a vest that was covered in product and equipment patches. There wasn’t an inch that wasn’t covered with something. He was a kid with a dream who wanted to look the part even if he was just getting started.
That was the style in those days. I’m entitled to tell this story with a big grin on my face because I did exactly the same thing. Keep in mind that no one was paying us for this. We just wanted to look like we had it going.
The other thing about Patches is that he built his career on his own, that is, if you don’t count the continuous and unwavering support from his wife, Robin. He doesn’t have a trust fund to support him and he isn’t blessed with some kind of psychic ability that points him toward big bass. Everything he has is the product of hard work and sweat.
You have to admire that. This is a man who did it the hard way. He isn’t so much a product of the American Dream as he is a man who made the American Dream.
I’m telling this story not just to praise Patches and what he’s accomplished but also because it says something about the sport of competitive bass fishing, and about how it works in a free country. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from. If you work hard and learn how to catch them, you can have a good life as a tournament pro.
This is a sport based solely on performance. Money, connections and the like mean nothing to a fish. He or she doesn’t care about your net worth and he or she doesn’t care who you know or how important your grandpa was way back when. You catch them or you don’t.
If you’re an aspiring pro angler reading this, keep that in mind. Bass fishing is wide open. There’s no glass ceiling. But you have to work hard, pay your dues and learn your lessons. There’s no other way to the top. And while you’re thinking and doing those things, I strongly encourage you to look at the life and career of Patches. It’ll serve you well.
So, when we think about the 2014 GEICO Bassmaster Classic, let’s think about more than the winner’s fishing prowess. Really, that’s the obvious. Everybody who has ever won a Classic caught fish, but not everybody did it like this year’s winner did it.
Well done, Patches.