I grew up in a fisherman's fantasy world. I think if a lot of guys could do it over, they'd want to have it like I did. My dad and granddad took me and my brothers (Arnie, the oldest, and Chris, the youngest) fishing at every opportunity.
Arnie and Chris and I all love hunting and fishing. We were taught to enjoy the outdoors rather than take it for granted. We fished Lake Kissimmee and a little saltwater, but my granddad liked Rodman Reservoir in Ocala best. We fished and fished and fished. When Arnie got old enough to drive, he took us all over. We all shared common interests. Now we're on tour together, so it's still fun. We get houses and room together and have a good time.
As I got into my high school years, I started to fish more and more. I went to school with a johnboat on top of my car. All I wanted to do was get out of class and put that thing in the water. I had a buddy who worked at one of the phosphate companies here in town and he could get us in the pits. We went three or four times a weekend. Every Saturday morning I'd get up as early as I could and we'd put that boat in the water and fish all day.
That's when I was officially hooked. When I graduated high school I fished every day for as long as I could because your time is limited in school. I did my share of raising hell and whatnot, but that's when I really got serious about fishing.
After high school, I had a lawn business which left me with a lot of time to fish, especially during the winter. The grass doesn't grow very fast in the cold months, so I had work about every other week. The rest of the time I was fishing. October through March I was out there almost every day. In summer, it was hectic. The grass grows like weeds and we worked six and seven days a week.
A little later I got into local tournaments and some national club tournaments. Chris was the one who inspired me the most to get involved in that aspect. We (Arnie, Chris and I) all fished pretty close together and competed together, so I thought if Chris can catch 'em, me and Arnie can, too.
I just stayed at it. I had confidence in my fishing, and my family was behind me 100 percent, and it has paid off. I'm lucky to be living my dream on tour. It's a little more serious at the Elite level, but it's still fun. I love catching 'em, and when I don't catch 'em I love to learn how I should've caught 'em.
Now that I'm a dad, though, my favorite memories are every time I get to go out in the johnboat with my kids. It reminds me of a time I was fishing with my dad. I was throwing a Devil's Horse when a huge fish nailed it. I set the hook and started reeling a big ball of hydrilla. I told my dad it got off and I got all upset. When I pulled it in, there was a 10- or 11-pound bass in it. Being there with my dad that evening was the start of many big fish that I've caught. He always said I had a knack for catching a big one. So far it's been pretty true.
However, one thing I have now that I didn't have growing up is my wife, Madeline. Fishing at this level comes with a lot more politics and commitments to sponsors and such. I can call her and she can send an e-mail or write something up, whatever needs to be done. I couldn't do any of it without her. She keeps things steady at home when I'm on the road. Even with your dad, grandfather or whoever to help, you cannot do it without your wife.