As a Bassmaster Elite Series pro, I am fortunate enough to have the best job in the world. I am able to do what I love to make a living. Even if I wasn’t doing this for my occupation, I would be still fish as much as possible. It is something that was instilled in me from a young age as I grew up fishing with my family. The memories as a child fishing with my dad, grandpa and brother Jordan are what made me who I am today.
My dad was always the one who took me and my brother fishing when we were younger. Our family trips were going fishing where many other families would go to theme parks, sporting events or the beach. We watched Jerry Mckinnis on The Fishin’ Hole sometimes, and it seemed like Jerry was always fishing the Boundary Waters in Ely, Minn. He would be out there in his canoe catching one giant smallmouth after another. We always dreamed of one day making a trip to these waters.
Years later, when Jordan and I were in our teens, dad decided to take us on that trip up north. We drove for what seemed like days to get there and were a few hours from our destination when dad fell asleep at the wheel and totaled the truck. Since we packed so much gear and tackle for the trip, I was following them in another truck and saw the whole thing unfold. It was a frightening moment for all of us, but thankfully we were all safe. And miraculously our boat was unscathed. Jordan hurt his ankle in the accident, but we were so close we decided we couldn’t turn around. We hitched up the boat to the other truck and kept going. Jordan fished the first few days from the back of the boat on crutches and still out fished us all.
We still laugh about that one and to this day. That was the best fishing trip any of us have ever been on. We caught huge smallmouth bass on topwater the whole time, and it was a trip none of us will ever forget, both for the fishing and for the trip getting there.
My grandfather, or “Pa” as we called him, loved to fish. Jordan and I would go and visit him in Georgia each summer and fish the rivers and farm ponds around his house. One of these ponds was full of bass and the other was full of catfish. We would go back and forth between the two every day and fish for whatever was biting.
My best memory from these trips was catching my first big bass, a 4 pounder. I can still remember it like it was yesterday. Pa was fishing next to me on the bank when I hooked this fish, and he was coaching me and helping as I tried to horse this fish in with a spinning rod and light line. As I dragged it onto the shore the line broke and the fish flopped back into the water. Pa jumped in the water and grabbed this fish effortlessly. We both caught the bass that day, and I still think of the fish and how calm Pa was as he grabbed the fish from the water.
Jordan is now fishing the Bassmaster Central Opens and trying to qualify for the Elite Series so we can travel, compete and share memories together like we have our whole lives. A few weeks ago we had the chance to fish a local tournament on Norris Lake, which is the lake where we learned how to fish. It was a large team event with over 250 boats, and we won the event. It was an amazing day. During this tournament, we actually fished some of the same spots that we used to fish when we were younger. It was a full circle experience and was great to relive those childhood memories with my brother during the tournament and reflect on all off the good times we had together fishing as a family growing up.
Fishing with my family is something I cherish even more than competing on the biggest stage in bass fishing. In the next few weeks, my brother Jordan will be welcoming a son of his own, and we are both ready to pass on our family tradition as soon as he is old enough to hold a rod. If it weren’t for Dad and Pa taking Jordan and I, we would not be who we are today. I want to thank them for having the patience to take us fishing when we were younger and making it a priority to enjoy the great outdoors together as a family.