I’ll fish the Wild Card

Several opinions are floating around about the Bassmaster Classic Wild Card that’s coming up shortly. Some of the Elite Series guys are going to fish it. Some are going to pass. There’s no real clear pattern.

I respect everyone’s thinking. We all have to make the decisions that we think will work best for our careers. Someone once said that it’s better not to judge another person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. That’s good thinking. I try never to lose sight of that thought.

As for me, however, I’m going to fish the Wild Card. I signed up early, and without any hesitation whatsoever. I’ll take advantage of any opportunity that I have to qualify for a Bassmaster Classic. If it’s legal, within the rules and ethical, I’ll do it.

My reasons are simple, and about as straightforward as you can get. I’m a professional angler. I fish B.A.S.S. I didn’t qualify for the Classic. I’ll not turn down a shot to do so regardless of where it’s at or what I might think my chances are of winning the darn thing. It’s our championship, and I want to be there competing.

There’s a reason athletes keep playing even when they’re behind, sometimes hopelessly behind. It’s about pride, doing everything you can every time you compete. It’s not about just being in the game or showing up and going through the motions. You have to leave it all on the field. That’s what I do every single time I launch my boat in a tournament.

There’s another side to my thinking as well. 2008 was a watershed year for me. I’ve fished most of my life. As far back as I can remember my dream was to qualify, and try to win, a Bassmaster Classic. After the first day, I was leading. The way I felt that evening and the next morning is difficult (impossible) to describe.

In the boatyard, I knew I was in good shape. I’ve fished a lot over the years. I knew I had serious weight in my livewell. What I didn’t know was that I was going to be leading the tournament. I can still remember the feeling that spread through my body when that realization hit me.

It was like I was full of adrenalin and numb at the same time — surreal. It wasn’t sudden or anything, not like a smack in the face. It was more like a wave that passed through my body, slow and powerful.

A writer caught me early that evening on the way to my room. All he wanted was a quick interview, just a quote for an article he was writing. I couldn’t get the words out of my mouth. I tried. It just didn’t happen, or at least not in the way it should have.

I want to experience all of that again, every single bit of it. OK, the truth is that I want to experience it for three days this time, instead of just one. And so, I’ll fish Okeechobee.

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