“Right now, the best I can do is to put my face out there,” he added. “I’m looking for someone who’s looking for someone like me.”
Most importantly, the impediments that previously hindered his time on the water have been reduced or eliminated. He’s retired from his “other” job and Bobbie’s doctors have given her primary caretaker a green light to get back on the road. While he’s continued to fish tournaments close to home since leaving the Elite Series, this week’s event marks his first long distance event since he left Lake Murray in May 2008.
The last time he fished in Virginia, at the 2007 Elite Series Blue Ridge Brawl on Smith Mountain Lake, he was disqualified for an inadvertent rules violation. He prefished with a non-competitor acquaintance from California (allowed under the then-current rules), but later found out that the other man had been staying on a houseboat over the lake. “There was no thought process involved in doing that,” he said. “No one would have done anything remotely different.” However, under the terms of the Elite Series rules, it was not permissible to fish with someone who’d “been on the tournament waters during the off-limits period.” Accordingly, he received a zero for the event. Entering that tournament, he’d been in 34th place in the Toyota Angler of the Year standings, but the DQ probably doomed his chances, even if he’d fished exceptionally the rest of the season.
Between the DQ, his wife’s battle with cancer and his struggle to balance multiple careers, did he ever feel cursed?
“You can’t sit around and say ‘Why me?’” he said. “I lived in a world of fighting fires. I’ve seen horrible car wrecks. I’ve seen people losing their families. I can’t be a victim. I just need to keep trudging forward.”
Today that path forward will begin with a long run to the Chickahominy River tributary of the James. He sits in a tie for 90th place after Day One, but the optics of those standings may be deceptive, as he’s just one good bite out of the 30th place money spot. Yesterday he was in a late flight, but today he was among the first boats to blast off from Osborne Landing so he expects to have a good crack at his choice of areas.
“I need to get onto my fish,” he said. “I thought I could do it yesterday but when I got there, there were five boats on it. I just need a chance to fish some of my stuff.”
He won’t know whether anyone else is on his best spots until he makes the hour-long run down the river today. After 50 hours and 3,000 miles to get here, that race across the water might seem like a drop in the ocean.
“It seems like it takes forever getting there, but no time at all getting back,” he said of the run to his best area.
He hopes that in the near future the same can be said of his Elite Series career.