As the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series representative at this year’s recent Bassmaster Classic in Greenville, S.C., I was like an Amateur Champion at golf’s the Masters tournament. I had earned the right to be there, but I was playing against the best in the world, in our sport’s biggest event, with very little experience playing at that level compared to the vast majority of the other competitors.
You could say my lack of experience was reflected in my position on the leaderboard, but I’m not gonna make any excuses, and instead hold tight to the incredible memories – three of which I’d like to share in detail.
First was the feeling I had when they pulled my Nitro boat and I into the Bon Secours Wellness Arena where nearly 15,000 fans cheered as my song of choice, “Centuries” by Fall Out Boy, blared and rock concert-like lights flashed. It was truly a “This is it!” moment. I knew at that moment, I wanted to be a pro angler for the rest of my life.
I could hear my mom, dad, stepdad, Aunt B., girlfriend Sarah, Coach Kerry and his wife Hillary, my dad’s cousin Ronnie from Sam Rayburn and his family, plus four guys from the University of Louisiana at Monroe bass fishing team and their girlfriends, all cheering as I entered the arena.
I’ll never ever forget feeling that level of support. I literally thanked God for that moment, and it made me want to work 110 percent to make it back to the Classic for my family, friends and sponsors.
The second memory I’ll cherish from my Classic experience was how great all the top pro anglers treated me. Randall Tharp was among the first to make me feel welcome. He told me just to focus on enjoying being there, to appreciate the joy of the whole experience, which helped me relax.
And later in the week, at the B.A.S.S. Night of Champions banquet, Chris Lane and Aaron Martens shared a ton of laughs with me and just really made me feel at home.
Amid the biggest, most competitive tournament in bass fishing, never once did a single pro angler make me feel uncomfortable or out of place. They showed me class and character and furthered my desire to emulate them.
Thirdly, the Bassmaster Classic reminded me of both the impact and responsibility I have to those younger than me. I had four different sets of parents of kids that love to fish approach me in the Carhartt booth at the Classic Outdoor Show, and they thanked me for setting such a positive example by putting the Lord first in all that I do.
Truthfully, if I can bring kids closer to Christ through bass fishing – it will be more than just a top Classic memory – and more of a lifetime accomplishment.