Returning to my roots

This is a weekend when I get back to my roots.

Of course it's Easter, which is always time for being with family. It will be my first weekend home in several weeks before I set out later next week for our two-week swing to West Point, Ga., and Lake Murray, S.C.

But there's another tradition here in Kalamazoo that takes me back to my early days — long before I began fishing pro tournaments.

It's called the D&R Sports Center Spring Fishing Show at my brother's tackle, hunting and boat dealership where I worked for several years before turning pro. It's one of the largest independent stores in Michigan.

Randy has hosted the Spring Show on Easter weekend for as long as I can remember. It starts today (Friday), runs through Saturday and attracts visitors from all surrounding states and Canada.

It's a very big deal because he gets the best fishermen in the country to put on seminars throughout the two-day event.

In my early days, my job was to move boats and merchandise to make room for displays set up by major manufacturers who participate, then help sell boats and tackle during the show.

Now, my role is to provide one of the seminars. I'll be joining Alabama pro Boyd Duckett, California pro Gary Dobyns, my nephew Jonathon VanDam, and good friend Mark Zona, who also co-hosts The Bassmasters on TV and has his own television show, Zona's Awesome Fishing Show.

They come into town the night before and most stay at my house, which gives us an opportunity to visit away from the tournament circuit. It's a great way to build relationships away from the competition.

I usually do the D&R seminars from a stage, but this year I'll be doing mine from my Nitro boat, showing anglers how I set it up with aftermarket features such as power locks, alarm systems, the new HydroWave, Power Poles and electronics. I'll demonstrate how they're wired and how and when to use them.

It's here where I got to meet all of the great pros before turning pro. We've hosted Roland Martin, Larry Nixon, Bill Dance, Rick Clunn, Denny Brauer and several other greats over the years.

As a kid, it was a huge thrill for me to meet the guys that I'd read about in Bassmaster Magazine or saw on TV for the first time — guys that I would later compete against on the tournament trail. I discovered they're all great guys, very helpful and fun to be around.

I'll never forget the first time Nixon was here; I was so shy, I was afraid to approach him! Today, I consider him one of my good friends.

Speaking of friends, my brother's show attracts a lot of my buddies from school, my bass club and the people I competed against on the Michigan B.A.S.S. Federation circuit. Given the way I travel, I don't get to see them as often as I'd like, so that makes this event even more special.

Remember, it's all about the attitude.