A gift of encouragement

Looking back on my career, many positive things come to mind. Events, situations or even simple gestures that proved pivotal in my development as a competitive angler.

And that’s what I’d like to share with you this holiday season — an inspirational gift I received years ago, from a special couple wanting to lend a hand.

Setting the Stage

In 1989, I was competing in my third full season of the Bassmaster Invitationals.

Back then, the Invitationals were the highest level of competition in professional fishing. Unlike the Elite Series, pros were paired together in the same boat, competing against not only each other, but the rest of the field. It required a level of cooperation and sharing that hasn’t been around since, and after two seasons of getting my butt whipped, I was finally in contention to qualify for my first Bassmaster Classic.

It was down to the final event on Lake Guntersville, and I remember how nervous I was going in. I wanted to make the Classic so badly nothing else seemed to matter.

Back then, the Angler of the Year standings were determined by weight, not points. Knowing Guntersville would be a heavy weight event, I knew I’d have to have a strong finish in order to qualify.

The pressure was nearly overwhelming.

Guntersville is a big lake, full of structure. And to that point, I had no real experience at fishing deep. Having little time to learn my way around, I felt my chances were better staying shallow and looking for grass.

I spent long hours each day of practice combing the lake, hoping to find the magic grassbed. And though I did manage to locate some good areas, I never felt truly confident. I began to second-guess myself. Then I remembered something.

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