My blessings in 2017

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Alton Jones Jr., becoming part of the fifth father/son comb to fish in the same Classic, had 12-13.
Darren Jacobson
Alton Jones Jr., becoming part of the fifth father/son comb to fish in the same Classic, had 12-13.

As we approach Thanksgiving, I’m considering all the things for which I’m thankful. I’ve had this thought every year, but 2017 has been special and I’ve become keenly aware of just how blessed I am.

For starters, and without question, the most incredible part of this year was marrying my best friend and greatest supporter, my wife Kelsey. That was a big part of the big changes that occurred in my life this year.

Second on my “thankful” list definitely would be fishing my first Bassmaster Classic. Experiencing our sport’s biggest event is something every angler dreams of, and to have it in my home state where friends and family could drive down was incredible. To represent the state of Texas in this event was something I’ll never forget. 

Taking this thought a little farther, I can say that, along with the excitement and personal fulfillment, the Classic was a tremendous learning experience. One of the things I learned was to fish outside the box.

Everyone thought this was going to be a shallow water event, but Classic winner Jordan Lee was one of those anglers that thought outside the box and that led to a dominant performance. There were several other guys who also took creative approaches — like Brent Ehrler, who fished shallow, but flipped an unweighted bait on light line in heavy cover.

Seeing these unusual approaches really opened my eyes, as an angler, so I’ll have this in mind for my next opportunity to fish the Classic — the importance of trying to do something different.

Looking back at my rookie Elite season, I am thankful for some key lessons I learned along the way. Learning the ropes was what I expected, but I gained a lot more insight and perspective on how to be an Elite Series pro.

My first year didn’t turn out as I’d hoped it would, but I got to see the roller coaster of this sport. I feel like I made tremendous strides in my growth as a professional angler. Probably the biggest lesson that I’m thankful for is to be a patient fisherman. I caught myself not doing that as much as I should this year, and I’ve made a commitment to integrating more of that into my 2018 game plan.

I think the reason this was such an intense learning opportunity is that I finally got to see the top level of competition from the inside. With my dad’s career, I’ve spent much of my life around professional fishing, but nothing can prepare you for what you’ll face as an Elite Series angler. 

You have to experience these things on a personal level to fully understand what this sport requires. I saw this firsthand, and I am hugely thankful for the opportunity to do so. I wish I would have won every 2017 Elite event, but having a rough year will make me appreciate 2018 that much more.

Now, as far as Thanksgiving traditions, this week will bring a new set of opportunities and experiences. Up until now, every Thanksgiving we’ve gone out to my grandparents’ house in Coleman, Texas, where all my relatives gather.

But this year, my wife and I will be spending Thanksgiving with her family in Minnesota. While I value what I’ve done in the past, I’m looking forward to this year’s experience because I’m sure it will be a wonderful opportunity to grow and establish some new traditions — kind of like my rookie Elite season.