‘Gossip Hall’ dreams

This week is sorta like a movie. Except it’s real. No big screen at the theater. No Redbox rentals. Real life. Right here on the lake where I first started dreaming of a career as a tournament bass angler - Lake Guntersville - home to this week’s 44th annual Bassmaster Classic. The winner will get $300,000 this Sunday afternoon.

I grew up in Cullman, Ala., just 38 miles, from Guntersville. My dad is a hard working, Carhartt-wearin’ veterinarian, and when it was time to unwind on the weekends of my childhood, Mom, Dad, Matt (my brother) and I spent family time out here at the Guntersville Yacht Club.

It seems like Matt and I fished every inch of the Yacht Club’s slough by walking its many docks and seawalls. And a lot of burgers and steaks got cooked at the club’s small pavilion known as Gossip Hall, a small picnic area complete with ice machines, tables, grills … and you guessed it … gossip.

I never cared much about gossip as a kid, but the burgers Mom and Dad cooked at Gossip Hall provided fuel to extend the fishing day until dark; those days often involved catching everything from crappie to freshwater drum, and a few bread balls for bait.

I graduated away from bread balls the day I caught three or four huge bass from my grandfather’s pond on a YUM Dinger soft plastic lure. That was the catalyst – a true magical moment that began the real life movie that’s playing-out this week.

While my mom and dad have been as generous in the support of our “fishing dreams” as any two kids could ever ask for, most of what Matt and I learned about catching a bass is self-taught, or learned by listening to and watching the top pros in the world.

One of those pros was Mike Iaconelli, who won the April 2006 Bassmaster Elite Series event here on Guntersville by catching nearly 72 pounds of bass over the course of the tournament. I was age 14, and we followed him all over the lake; we were watching and learning as he competed.

Fast-forward “the movie” about eight years, and here I am competing against Iaconelli this week. I qualified for this week’s Classic by winning the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series title, but I began this dream, started this movie, by walking the seawalls and shoreline surrounding Gossip Hall.

And all I can dream of now is a fairly tale ending.