I’ve learned for me to get good, really good, at something I can’t just dabble in it. I have to immerse myself. I’ve always loved to bass fish and started fishing tournaments shortly after graduating high school, but I had other interests growing up as well. I lived on the beach and went body boarding when the waves were good. I spent too much time in the gym trying to be Arnold. I had multiple jobs. It wasn’t until I won the Cup in 2010 that I turned my focus to full-time tournament fishing. I feel I’ve made significant progress since then by dedicating my time solely to bass fishing, and competing against some of the most talented tournament anglers on Tour. However, I know there are areas of my game I need to continue to work on, in order to reach the level I know I’m capable of reaching.
I’ve always placed a lot of emphasis on consistency, but after seeing how much of an impact a win can create I’m rethinking my approach for next season. Not only does a win carry the biggest cash prize, but it also provides the most exposure for an angler and his sponsors. I do believe there’s one distinct difference between the two approaches — having an uncanny amount of courage. Sometimes it means being willing to cover more miles than every other competitor (like Brandon Palaniuk did at the St. Lawrence River), or it can be finding a backwater overlooked by everyone else (like Todd Faircloth at the Sabine River). It can be scary to gamble like Brandon and Todd did knowing the amount of uncontrollable variables dramatically increases when making a long run or accessing skinny water. There’s an increased chance of breaking down, or getting stuck and not making it back to weigh in. But, as I’ve stated before, the biggest risks often carry the biggest rewards. It’s going to take some mental work for me to change my approach, but I know I have it in me.
Having a solid support crew in place is important in everyone’s life, especially a full-time tournament angler. Prior to leaving for the first Elite tournament on the Sabine River, I made arrangements to travel and room with my friends and fellow Elite Series anglers, Chad Pipkens and Brandon Card. I can’t tell you how helpful it is to travel with two guys who you can trust like your own brothers. Brandon (the funniest guy I know) provided the comic relief all season with his jokes, and Chad (the most positive person I know) kept everyone’s morale up when we had a miserable practice day or a rough tournament. Traveling three deep also made it feasible for us to rent houses at a lot of the events rather than having to stay at hotels. Rental houses provided us some of the comforts of home, which goes a long way when traveling.
Family and friends are a big part of my support crew as well. Like any other profession requiring a lot of traveling and being away from home, tournament angling can get lonely sometimes, so I take advantage of the time I spend driving by talking to the people closest to me (hands free, of course) traveling from tournament to tournament. There are also the random acts of kindness shown by people who helped us in many different ways throughout the season. On more than one occasion, Brandon, Chad, and I had strangers invite us into their homes and provided us with a warm place to stay, amazing home cooked meals, and the company and conversation we’re accustomed to having when we’re home with our family and friends. We try to show our gratitude the best way we know how, but I think most of the people who help us out along the way just want us to pay it forward. So we try our best to do so.
It’s difficult to maintain a full-time tournament fishing career without sponsors. This season I worked just as hard off the water as I did on taking a proactive approach to provide as much exposure and help strengthen brand awareness for my sponsors as I possibly could. I want to show them the value I can provide, and build a long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationship with them.
I’m setting my goals high again for this coming season, and I won’t let myself perform as poorly as I did this year. Now that I’m fishing on the Elite Series, not only do I want to stay here, but I want to succeed at the highest competitive level. I’m going to continue to go about my business the only way I know how — by working hard.
Reprinted with permission from InsideLine.net.