Tharp: A break after a long season

On Friday evening I backed the boat under the house, unhitched it from the trailer and came upstairs to my wife and two spoiled dogs. They traveled with me most of the season but didn’t accompany me to Eufaula for the writers’ conference I took part in last week. I missed having them there.

For a period of time that night we did not discuss fishing or think about fishing. I even went to bed without one fishing-related thought in my head. This is a very rare but much needed break for me, even if it was only one evening.

Now a few days have passed, and I have had a bit of time to process everything that happened to me this year. I have had sponsor obligations since my last Elite event, and then I spent time preparing for the Open at Seminole. I did not want my Bassmaster Classic berth to hinge on the outcome of that event but that was the hand I was dealt. I was determined give it 100 percent and be at my best that week.

I guess you could call Seminole my home lake now. I can be on the water in an hour and a half from my front door. At the Seminole Open in 2010 I finished fifth, won the Open points title and qualified for my first Classic. I also had a good Elite event there last year when B-Hite won. It seems to suit my strengths.

I wrote a while back about how sometimes an angler’s best tournaments aren’t necessarily the ones you win. For me, Seminole was a perfect example of that phenomenon. I made good decisions every day and fished to my strengths. I caught every fish that bit that week and gave myself a chance to win on the final day. I finished second, one spot short of the Classic that I desperately wanted to qualify for. Disappointed? Nope…not at all.

This McMillan kid who won deserved his trophy. I don’t really understand everything that has happened between the two of us over the years. I could write a book on all of it dating back to when I finished second to him at the FLW Tour event on the Big “O.” That’s when our friendship started.

Now he’s won his Angler of the Year in the Southern Opens and made his first Classic on the same lake where I qualified for my first. That’s way too many coincidences to dismiss. I am thankful I was there to be a part of his big achievement. I’m also glad I made him earn it on the last day and even sweat it out a bit at that final weigh-in. Good job, man, you know I will get you back!

Now, let’s get back to that much needed break. Clark Wendlandt has been a good friend of mine dating back to my FLW days. I have always had a lot of respect for him, his accomplishments and the way he does his job. He told me several years ago there would come a day when I wouldn’t want to fish 24-7. There would come a day when I would need a break. At the time I thought he was crazy. I’m quite sure I told him that in my own smart-ass way – probably not suitable for publication here.

Well, it’s time to apologize because the old man was right. I’m going to take this break, regroup and come back ready to achieve what I know I’m capable of in 2016. The competition is just getting stronger and if you’re not mentally rested and prepared, you’re guaranteeing yourself a tough hill to climb.