Obviously I’m ecstatic about my win at the 2021 Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Pickwick Lake. I’m really pretty much beyond words at this point. Jennifer and the kids feel the same way, too. It’s something so good that we haven’t had the time to let in sink in yet.
I’ve been fishing the Bassmaster Elite Series since 2006 when it first started. My first tournament was the Battle on the Border at Lake Amistad. I finished 39th in that event which was competitive but not where I wanted to be in my career.
As the years have gone by I’ve come close to winning a few times but never made it. Basically, I was good with that, at least that’s what I told myself. I had a job that I loved, earned a good living for my family and was generally content. Not a lot of men can say that.
If I never won an Elite Series event, I could have lived with that.
At the same time, though, in my heart I wanted one of those blue trophies. Winning at this level is a kind of validation of your career. True, I always requalified over the years for the elites and I made it to 10 Bassmaster Classic tournaments — and I finished 4th back in 2016. Still, there was that thing about having a blue trophy. I didn’t have one and it mattered. It was a weight I carried but didn’t talk about.
As this tournament unfolded I didn’t think much about winning or losing. I just put my head down and kept fishing. I’d come close before. I knew what that felt like.
I also knew that I was fishing in my comfort zone. I was in the river in water that had between 6 and 12 inches of visibility and with a fair amount of current. It was also brown, not green. Those things are issues with some anglers but it’s home to me. Remember, I come from the banks of the Ohio River. Low visibility, mud and current are how I learned to bass fish. It was like I was fishing my home waters, except that we don’t catch 8-pounders.
It’s funny how things work out. I figured I’d need 20 pounds on Tuesday to win. When I came in I thought I only had around 18 pounds despite the giant I’d caught that morning. In my mind it looked like another close finish.
But when I looked up I saw that Jen and the kids had tears streaming down their faces. I mean a whole bunch of them. And I saw one of my friends waiting to greet me. He said he’d leave but would come back if I won. He was back. Those two things got me to thinking that maybe, just maybe, I’d caught enough. It turned out that I had.
If there’s a lesson in this, it has little to do with fishing. It’s about finding something that you love to do and that pays enough for you to be able to take care of your family. At the same time, be satisfied with what’s happening in your life but always strive to do better.
Now I need some help from my friends. Where should I put the trophy? I don’t have a mantel.