So after all of that tumult, how does one return to the pro tours? Do you just show up and start casting or is the journey more circuitous and pitted than that?
Haseotes had a hardship exemption in hand, allowing him to sit out the 2011 season and guaranteeing him a spot in the 2012 Elites, but even after Evi’s death in January, it wasn’t as easy as packing up the truck and boat and heading south from his Cape Cod home. While partners like Skeeter, Yamaha, Lucky Craft and title sponsor Gulf Oil had stood by his side, awaiting his return, Haseotes had doubts.
“I was a wreck and my wife was a wreck,” he said. “’Please don’t leave me this year,’” she implored. “My wife is the strongest person I know. If I had her strength and her never quit attitude, I’d be Kevin VanDam.” The choice was clear – he’d sit out the 2012 Elite season and hope to regroup in 2013. If B.A.S.S. wouldn’t extend the hardship, then it wasn’t meant to be.
So now he finds himself expecting to be back on tour in 2013, with a smidgen of doubt of whether it’ll happen. Even if it does, can someone who struggled in his rookie season expect to come back from a two-year layoff and compete with the Skeets and KVDs of the world? As he strives to right his world towards normalcy, the Opens are the first step toward answering that question.
“It’s like riding a bike,” he said. “You never forget how to fish. But it’s the routine that’s hard to reestablish. Look at me – I’m so excited to get out here today that I forgot to drink any water.
“Of course I want to make the Classic, but I wanted to fish the Opens to get used to being on the road again. I had to knock the rust off. It was really hard for me to leave the other morning, but you can’t stop living life. If you do that, you’re better off being dead. I’ve always been an optimist – maybe too much of an optimist sometimes – but I think it generally helps. One of the most important lessons my dad taught me is that if adversity gets you down, then right there you’re conquered. You will fail no matter what you do in life.”
After sitting on the sidelines for two years, he’s ready to jump back in the fray. “I need to get my mind and body adjusted, and this is a good start.” While the Opens certainly aren’t easy, pitting the best local talent against competitors from multiple major league trails, it’s someplace he can work toward that goal, with a shot at fishing the Bassmaster Classic to boot.
He admits that he didn’t have a fraction of the experience that most of his Elite amigos had on the big Southern impoundments. Hell, he’d never fished a tournament of any sort until he was 18, and even those were on ponds on the Cape, not massive inland seas. But he declared himself a glutton for punishment – “I got kicked and I wanted to get back up and get kicked again.”
Now, if everything goes right, Haseotes has nine days to drive the rust away – three days of competition in each of the three Northern Opens. He’s a man who knows that when things are good, like when your infant daughter comes home from the hospital for the first and only time, you can cram a lifetime of love into that short period. But he also knows that time holds a funny sort of elasticity. Just as you thought everything was getting right, it can be taken away from you in an instant and you go back to living at sundial speed. The minutes waiting for that same daughter’s blue face to clear up can seem like an eternity. So what will these Opens hold for BJ Haseotes?
At this point, fishing is not just an obsession, nor is it solely a career. Instead, despite the occasional pangs of guilt, it is his therapy. “Just to be back on the water is good for me,” he said. “It’s good for my family because it gives me a chance to clear my head and focus.” With a year of Elite experience under his belt and having suffered through a crisis that would force most men to retreat into a shell forever, Haseotes is no longer a wide-eyed newbie.