“My rookie year I was a Yankee from New England with no experience on the bodies of water,” he explained. “That killed me. My first time on any of the bodies of water was the first day of official practice. My father always told me that a man gets better by his mistakes. I learned so much by getting my ass kicked. It’s like I paid my tuition.”
The Classic berth would be a bonus, one that he sees no reason he can’t achieve, but he recognizes that getting his fishing life back together is a day-by-day process, just like dealing with a sick child or the loss of that same child. No setback is too small to overlook and no step forward can be taken for granted.
“To win an event, everything has to go right,” he said. “You can’t lose any fish and every decision has to be the right one. I’m still learning how to do that. I expect to do well in every tournament I fish, but there’s a huge learning curve. The Elite guys in particular are incredible fishermen. Even if they haven’t been to the place, they’ve seen just about everything.”
Haseotes has never been to the James, but feels it fits his power fishing strengths. Next month, he’ll head to Michigan to fish the Detroit River. The final cog in his nine day comeback tour will be at Cayuga, in New York, this year’s closest venue to his Massachusetts home. That one has a special place in his heart.
“The Cayuga tournament starts on Evi’s birthday, August 16,” he said, a fraction of a tear once again making an appearance, threatening more. “And if you look at the registration numbers on my boat, they’re oh-eight, sixteen, ten, then E, then H, her birthday and her initials.”
On each of his tournament days this year, he’ll get up and say good morning to his precious daughter. After the charger is plugged in, baits are tied on, and the last piece of map study is over, he’ll tell her good night. That’s the same routine he follows at home, or wherever he may be, and there’s no reason to deviate from it just because he’s climbed back on his bike and started peddling again.
“I told myself I’d be strong now,” he said. “But no matter how much I know she’s in a better place, I still miss the hell out of her. Some days are more difficult than others.”
He’s getting on with it, though, one cast at a time, one hug of his wife at a time, one hug of his son at a time. Each moment is precious to BJ Haseotes. Nine days can mean everything.