This column is dedicated to every angler who is struggling — no matter if you want to be a pro or if you just fish for fun.
My win at the 2019 Cherokee Casino Tahlequah Bassmaster Elite at Lake Tenkiller didn’t happen overnight. It’s taken nine long years. I always believed it would happen, but now that it has I honestly don’t know what to say other than that it’s changed me forever. I know that for sure, even if I don’t know exactly how right now.
I fished the Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens Series in 2011, 2012 and 2013 without qualifying for the Bassmaster Elite Series. I came close in 2013 but not close enough. Then, in 2014 it finally happened. I was in!
The 2015 and 2016 seasons were tough. I was doing what I knew I could do but wasn’t getting the result I needed. At the end of 2016 I was informed that I hadn’t requalified. I was out. It was devastating. I was disappointed beyond understanding and, frankly, deeply in debt. Worse than I want to admit. I have to admit that was the low point for me.
Nevertheless, I moved over to FLW and continued fishing competitively. At the same time, though, I continued to fish the Opens. I wanted back in. Quitting was never an option.
After two years, in 2018, it happened. I was in, again.
Up until the Lake Tenkiller tournament my first year back in was rough. I kept thinking that at some point something had to go right. I knew I could do this. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to do it. It was more like it was who I was, who I am.
In truth, I never really thought about quitting — not ever, not once.
I remember watching a documentary on TV about the United States Navy SEALs. There was a SEAL recruiter on that show who said that the final guys who make the cut aren’t the biggest, the strongest, the fastest runners or the best swimmers. They’re the ones who have the biggest heart.
They want it more than the other guys. He said you should fear their heart, not their body. I knew right then that was the mantra for my career and my life. I would try and try until there was nothing left, and then I would keep on trying.
So here I am writing this column about a win at the Elite Series level of professional bass fishing. It’s like it’s a dream, but it really isn’t. Somehow I knew I could do it if I just kept at it. And that’s my message to all the anglers out there struggling.
It isn’t the angler with the most expensive boat or the best electronics or all the new fancy lures that’ll get to the top. It isn’t the angler who has the most natural talent. It isn’t the guy who has the most money or the biggest sponsors.
It’s the guy who never quits believing in himself. It’s the guy who gets up every morning thinking about making it. It’s the guy who goes out fishing every single day no matter how he feels or what’s happening with the weather. It’s the angler who never stops believing.
Fear my heart.