The fourth thing I loved to do as a kid was fish. I’ve talked about my learning experience with my grandparents and my uncles before so I won’t get into that again except to say that it made for a real foundation for the sport. I didn’t just want to catch fish. I wanted to know why I caught them and how to catch more of them in the future.
That was pretty much a constant throughout my life. As the other things came and went, fishing was always there. Even when I was in college, learning about a hundred different careers I didn’t even know existed before I left home, fishing was the thing that I had my eye on. But it wasn’t just bass fishing, although that was important to me.
I would try to catch anything and everything that swam in the water, fresh or saltwater made no difference. Being from New Jersey was a huge advantage in that regard. There were dozens of different species that lived near my house. I could go for just about anything when conditions were right. You learn a lot about fish that way. Nevertheless, bass ended up at the top of my list.
Being competitive was always a part of me so it should come as no surprise that the tournament side of things caught my attention at an early age. I had early success, too. I think it was my second serious tournament where I won my first boat. That was huge. It allowed me to fish bigger events and to advance my career quickly.
But advancing my career isn’t really why I fish. I fish because it’s a wonderful puzzle, something that can never be solved. I don’t care how hard you work or how much you know you’ll never figure them out — not for long, anyway. They might have a small brain but it works real well when you’re chasing them around the lake.
That’s the thing about this sport. For every success there will be a failure. You’ll never get to the place where you can get up in the morning, head to the ramp, and know exactly what you’re going to do that day.
One thing I do want to say, though, is that I never dreamed it (pro bass fishing) would get to the place it is today. I figured that if I worked real hard I could earn a living at it when I got out of school. I never thought I’d be flying around the country giving seminars or fishing for $100,000 per tournament, or competing in a Classic that pays $500,000. It’s magical.
As I was writing that I couldn’t help but think back to my high school career counselor. You’ll recall she didn’t want me to go into treasure hunting. She wanted something better, more stable. What would she have said if I’d told her I was going to be a professional bass angler?
Next time we’ll talk a little Classic strategy.