Home at last

Now that ICAST is over, I'm at home for a couple of weeks. That's probably more rare than you think. Since the Bassmaster Classic in February, I don't think I've been home for a full week all year long.

You probably didn't know this about me, but I'm a very avid bow hunter. A lot of the same things that fascinate me about bass fishing also appeal to me about deer hunting. I love the challenge, the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, matching wits with a wild creature ... and the gear. I just a got new bow (a Hoyt) and I'm planning to use some of my time here at home to practice with it and get closer to hunting shape. First I'll get it fitted and tuned. If I can find enough time to practice before the season, I should be all set.

Speaking of gear — and bow hunting — I make my own arrows. I just love tinkering with all the tools of hunting just like I love altering a spinnerbait or adding a little color to a crankbait. It's probably true that not every little tweak makes a difference to the bass or to my bow, but I love doing it and it gives me confidence. That alone is worth a lot whether you're on the water or in the woods.

One big difference between my fishing and my hunting is that there's no actual competition with hunting — nothing beyond me and the deer, anyway. That keeps it relaxing for me. I can focus on the fun. Bass fishing is fun, too, of course. But when it's how you make your living, it's also work and has to be treated like a job. If you forget it's a job, you can get into trouble real fast. Hunting is my diversion.

As much as I love fishing, it's good to get my mind off it for a little while. Too much of anything can be bad for you, and by focusing on hunting for a little while, it makes me that much more eager to get back on the water. By the time I head for New York and the next Elite event, I'll be so excited about fishing that I can hardly stand it.

Of course, the very best thing about being home for a little while is the chance to spend time with my wife, family and friends. When you're on the road as much as I am, you really appreciate the time you spend with them and how fast it goes by. As much as I love my career, I've learned to cherish these moments at home and with loved ones even more than a school of 8 pounders.

While I'm here in Petal, I don't know that we'll do anything very special or unusual, but just being home and with the people I care about is a treat. My wife and I will go to my favorite Chinese buffet a time or two ... or three. We'll invite some family over. And I'll stop in and see some friends and probably talk fishing and hunting with them. If I were here every day, working at a job in town, it could get pretty easy to take those sorts of things for granted.

Another thing I'll do while I'm here is cook. I've got a smoker that I love to use, and you'd be amazed at how much I think about cooking while I'm on the road. I guess eating out so much has given me a greater appreciation of home-cooked meals, including the ones I make myself.

As for my fishing, I'm going to use this time to recharge my own batteries, to take my eyes off the prize just long enough to refocus and sharpen that edge we need to be on top of our game. Sometimes you have to step away for a little while to do that.

Cliff's notes:

Home is where the heart is ... and my hunting stuff, too.