Finding the Right Balance

Our season's over now. Everything is starting to calm down a bit. Let's talk about downtime. It's not a luxury, you know. It's a necessity — for you and your family.

Being a successful professional isn't about spending every waking minute on the water chasing bass, at least not for me anyway. I think it's important to watch for burnout and avoid it at all cost. It'll kill you if you aren't careful.

You see it a lot in guides. They fish every day, day after day, and pretty soon they're just going through the motions. They aren't really thinking — they're reacting. Often they stop checking their line the way they should. They ignore their hook points and don't really think about the bass.

It's easy to fall into that trap as a tournament angler, too. Fishing 11 Elite Series events over the spring and summer can take a toll on you. That's especially true if you fish between tournaments as well as fishing on official practice days and then during the events.

I haven't fished a venue for practice — other than the official practice — in years. I just don't do it. Part of the reason is time. I'm very busy with off-the-water commitments — TV and such.

But a big part of it is that I want to stay hungry. I want to starve myself just a little bit so that when I am on the water I appreciate it and take it seriously. I only have so much time to catch them. I don't leave anything to chance. I take care of my equipment and tackle. This — today — is all the time I have. I'm not going to let anything ruin it if I can help it.

And there's my family. They're more important than my career. I know a lot of guys say that, but in my case it's true. I spend my off time with Sherry and the kids. They matter. A successful fishing career would mean nothing if I failed with them. Failure with them is failure, pure and simple.

I just returned from a short vacation over Labor Day weekend. My family was with me. I fished with the kids — we whacked the smallies, absolutely whacked them — but we also rode go-carts and spent time at the beach. Fishing is a part of our life, but it's not our whole life. We do other things.

I'm sure a lot of readers would like the opportunity to fish enough so they suffered from burnout or at least risked it. I realize that. Still, successful fishing — especially competitive bass fishing — is about quality, not quantity.

Everybody has to do what works for them. This is what works for me. The 11 Elite tournaments are perfect for my schedule. They are manageable from a time and effort, on-the-water perspective. At the same time they give me enough time away to be a husband and a father and meet my sponsor commitments.

Maybe something else will work for you when it comes to fishing. Maybe you can fish more than I do without burnout. That's something every angler has to figure out for him or herself. It's an individual decision. No two anglers are alike.

Never forget, however, that when you're traveling and fishing you aren't with your family and you aren't refreshing your mind and body. Both are important. Neither is negotiable.