Dealing with change


Bassmaster Marshal

Changes — they’re part of fishing and part of life and how you deal with them has a great impact on your success and your happiness.

I recently dealt with some difficult changes during the most recent Bassmaster Elite Series event on Ross Barnett, but before I get into that, I want to tell you about a tremendously happy change that our family will soon experience. I’m talking about my son’s wedding.

Little Alton is our oldest child, and on Friday he’ll marry his fiancée Kelsey. We are so excited to be welcoming a new daughter to our family, and we really do look at Kelsey as a third daughter.

None of our kids have been married yet, so it’s new ground for us. We’ve all been putting in a lot of time in preparation for this event — especially my wife Jimmye Sue — but it’s a real blessing when you are excited about your child’s choice in a mate.

For me, I’m looking forward to seeing this deepen my relationship with my son by giving us one more area of common ground. We’ve drawn even closer this year with his rookie season on the Bassmaster Elite Series, and now we will share another big element of our lives — marriage.

When Jimmye Sue and I got married, it drastically changed my relationship with my parents and hers with her parents. That wasn’t negative, but your focus shifts more to your mate. I think my son will see the same thing happen in his life.

I think he’ll also see that being married to someone who loves and supports him will make a big difference in his life as a professional angler. This is a career that teaches us about change; seasons change, conditions change.

Getting back to the tournament on Ross Barnett, it wasn’t the kind of finish I wanted and it was kind of a shock because I thought I’d do better at that lake. What I didn’t do well was adjust to the changing conditions.

Instead of trying to find fish that would play better in the conditions that were coming, I looked for fish based on the conditions we had in practice. We had fairly stable conditions in practice, but I wasn’t planning for the rising water and the muddy conditions.

I was fishing deep during practice, and on Ross Barnett “deep” is 5 feet. But with the water rising as much as it did, most of the fish moved to shallow cover. By the time I figured that out, the productive shallow water areas were already covered by the other competitors.

My pattern was successful for the practice days, but it wasn’t successful for the tournament. That’s not a new lesson for me, and you wonder sometimes, “Why didn’t I learn that after the first 10 times?”

That’s a good lesson for all of life. You have to learn to anticipate all the potential changes that can come about and plan for those accordingly. Doing so allows you to be successful in all phases of life — spiritually, physically, emotionally and in your relationships.

But you know what? Seeing that smile on my wife’s face after this tough event did a lot to help ease the disappointment. Of course, she always wants me to do well, but her love is not contingent on a big sack of fish.

That’s something that means a lot to me, and I’m happy to know that my son will soon have that same level of unconditional love in his life. I hope he always does well, but I can say from experience that having a loving spouse there for you makes those times of change a lot easier to navigate.