Why I’m thankful

When my family meets for Thanksgiving, we’ll gather for a big lunch before watching the Egg Bowl that evening. We’re a big Old Miss family, so once the game starts, all eyes will be on the TV. 

During our Thanksgiving lunch, I’m sure a lot of eyes will be on my daughter Millie, who turned 1 on Nov. 19. She likes feeding our lab, Sam, from her high chair, and ever since the baby was born, that dog has been paying her rent by cleaning up. 

As I prepare for this special day, I’m reminded of some very important things that I’m thankful for. Foremost, I have to thank all the sponsors that supported me throughout the 2019 season.

You hear people say you can’t do this without sponsors and, at this level, that statement is 100% true. Without these companies investing in me, the expense of competing a the pro level would be a huge financial burden on my family, so I want to sincerely thank each of them. 

I’m especially thankful for the service crews, which work at all hours to keep us on the water. I don’t think these folks get enough credit, but without them, a lot of us wouldn’t be where we are. And that’s not only my sponsors; if you pull into the boat yard, all the service technicians rally around and get you going as quickly as they can.

Now, all this is obviously critical, but I cannot do what I do without the support and encouragement of family. When you’re doing this for a living and you’re gone 15-20 weeks a year, you gotta be thankful for this support system. My wife Leslie and all my family are the true backbone of what I do. 

This support helps keep me motivated to make good decisions and maintain the confidence I need to compete.

For example, during the second day of the Elite event on Cayuga Lake, I was stuck on three fish and made the decision to leave the grass I was fishing and go skip docks. I ended up getting two keepers in the first 30 minutes to finish my limit and then go on to cull a couple of times.

Stuff like that is what makes us better as anglers — gaining confidence in your decision making.

Also, on Day 2 at Tenkiller, I only had two fish, but the first one of the day was a big one. If I wouldn’t have had that one I doubt I would have made the cut for Day 3 where I caught a good stringer and finished in the top 20. 

Earlier in the season, I had a 6 1/2-pounder on both of the first two days on Lake Guntersville. It’s hard to pinpoint one particular fish that accelerated me, but I can look back and say that, at each event, I had a key fish that made a difference.

I didn’t have a great year but I had a decent year, and I’m thankful that it got me to the 50th Bassmaster Classic. It still hasn’t sunk in yet, but I’m sure this is going to be an amazing experience.

I’ll be doing my best to make the most of my Classic debut, and a large part of that motivation will be my fans. It’s still humbling to know that people follow me on social media and keep up with my career.

At heart, I’m still a weekend angler who’s thankful I get to do what I love for a living. I’m also thankful for everyone who cares enough to watch.

I want to also say “thank you” to our military servicemen and women who ensure that we all enjoy the freedom to pursue our dreams. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.