I think family experiences can have a big influence on your career path and that’s definitely the case for me.
As fishing families go, I grew up on the extreme side of that. I traveled with my family while my dad went to all the Bassmaster Elite Series events since I was 6. Doing so, I fished several days a week since I was 6-years-old until I was 18.
That really instilled a love for fishing, and it gave me that drive to compete at a young age. That time also grew a bond between my father and me. You always hear ‘Take a kid fishing,’ and that’s something that I’ve always been very passionate about because that’s what started my love for fishing.
In fact, if you asked me what my favorite part was from that period in my life, I’d say it was catching fish. I was homeschooled so I could travel with my family and that allowed me to do school work at night and practice daylight ’til dark three days a week.
This traveling also exposed me to many of the nation’s top fisheries. In fact, I think I’ve been to all but one of the lakes we’re going to next year on the Elite Series. Some of those were through the Opens, but many I visited during that 12-year span when I fished with my dad.
Those were special times when I learned my foundational lessons, like how to slowly work a green pumpkin/purple 7 1/2-inch YUM Ribbontail Worm. This was the first bait my dad taught me how to use, and it was also the bait that produced my first 10-pounder at age 14.
We shared a lot of great fishing memories as father and son, but we also shared many memorable experiences as a family. Five people and two Labrador retrievers in one RV will definitely test your limits, but we all got along well and I wouldn’t trade that time for anything.
I think that was especially important for my dad because a strong family unit provided a good foundation during the ups and downs of tournament fishing. The highest point, his Bassmaster Classic win in 2008, was a whirlwind. He was pulled in a million different directions, and it was definitely a family effort to help him manage all of that.
The lowest point, I’d have to say, was the previous year when he was disqualified at the Elite event on Santee Cooper. That was probably the hardest thing we had to go through as a family. It seemed like the end of the world when it happened, but you pull together.
It was good to have that as water under the bridge. We just hugged each other and moved on to the next one.
I think seeing the world of professional fishing from the inside probably fueled a lot of my interest in doing this for a living. It really started to hit in my early high school years, but the fire was lit in 2008. That was the last year they allowed co-anglers on the Elite Series, and I fished as a co-angler.
That was my first taste of big competition; to see how the anglers are on tournament days. It was another view that I had never seen before and it was pretty clear to me that this is what I wanted to do.
I love to fish; it’s one of my biggest passions. But more than that I love to compete, so the competition side of fishing drove me to the next level. Being on the road so much left little time for school sports, but I found my competitive outlet through fishing.
My dad has fully supported my decision to fish professionally, but when I first told him that’s what I wanted to do, I think he tried to convince me otherwise. He was very honest with me about what it’s going to take, what I’ll see and what to expect.
As I look forward to my rookie Elite season next year, I know it’s not going to be easy. It’s a big financial burden. Going through the Opens, I’ve seen that and budgeting for the Elites, I’ve seen it even more.
My first year of the Opens was a really tough year, but I remember my dad’s first five years on the Bassmaster Top 100 were extremely tough on him and his family. He wasn’t able to come out of the gate and immediately have a career. He struggled to get his feet off the ground, which I think most people do
What this says to me is that anything is possible for the person who’s willing to put in the time and make the sacrifices. Obviously, this year is very important because I qualified for the Elites. But I’m very aware of the fact that there are a lot of guys that dominate the Opens and then they can’t cut it in the Elites.
It’s a sobering thing to see. I hope that’s not me, and I don’t plan on that being me. But if it does turn out that way, I’m going to do it until the day I can’t.
I’m going to grind to find that success even if it takes me a few years. It’s a slow, steady climb and I’m willing to make it work. I know it can be done because I’ve seen my dad do it.