Paying dues still pays

During the 2019 Bassmaster Elite Series season, I got to know Harvey Horne a little bit, quite frankly, because he was struggling.

It was his rookie campaign with the Elites — and Horne, an Arkansas angler who had longed for a pro career as much as anyone I’ve ever known, started it all by falling out of the boat on the first day of the season opener at the St. Johns River. He then stumbled to a 66th-place finish in a 75-angler field.

His next seven events produced finishes of 63rd, 39th, 44th, 44th, 71st, 37th and 70th, as he failed to make a single semifinal cut.

That’s the hook to this piece.

With all of those semifinal Saturdays free, Horne didn’t just pack up and head home or high-tail it to the next tournament venue. He volunteered to work Angler Alley at the Bassmaster Outdoors Expo that accompanies every Elite Series event.

He shook hands, posed for pictures with fans, did seminars, made small talk with media folks like me and did it all with a wide country grin on his face.

That’s what’s called “paying your dues” — and it’s an age-old concept that still pays dividends today.

I was thrilled for Horne during the final 2019 regular-season event when solid catches the first two days put him in eighth place on Lake Tenkiller and left him unavailable to work Angler Alley on semifinal Saturday.

He went on to finish 16th in that tournament, earning $10,000 and some well-deserved validation as a professional newcomer. Then he started this season with a 12th-place finish on the same St. Johns River that soaked and sacked him a year earlier.

Now, he’ll have the wind in his sails all season as he tries hard to earn his first career berth in the Academy Sports+Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk.

It’s good to see good things happen to a good guy.

Horne is far from the only example of a guy who’s gone the extra mile to make his way in the world of professional bass fishing.

During the 2019 Elite Series event at Lake Lanier, Florida pro Drew Benton fished the first two days while suffering with a kidney stone.

Having experienced that particular joy three times, I would have expected him to limp away from that tournament to the first doc-in-the-box he could find.

But after barely missing the semifinal cut, Benton offered his services the next day to the crew at Bassmaster LIVE.

Dues paid.

The process doesn’t always have to involve a grand gesture.

I see it every day as Elite pros like Lee Livesay, Tyler Rivet, Paul Mueller, Brandon Cobb and many more interact with fans on Facebook and Instagram.

It may seem like a small thing to some. But to most fans, it means everything when pro anglers answer their questions or just click like on their responses.

Paying dues is a process that never ends. That’s why you still see it from veteran pros like Mark Menendez, David Fritts and John Crews.

They all learned long ago that “going the extra mile” is a figure of speech.

Sometimes, the act doesn’t actually require you to go anywhere. But it always takes you a long way.