Becoming a bass gypsy

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Courtesy of Chris Groh

About a decade ago I got a big image of a gypsy woman tattooed on my body and now life is finally going to imitate art. I’m going full-time gypsy down south this winter, crashing on couches, in guest bedrooms, in hotels and maybe in my truck a few times.

Why? 

I’m tired of sucking.

I want to get my juju back.

All of my fellow competitors who live in places like Tennessee and Texas fish at least every couple of days during the “offseason.” Up north, we don’t have that luxury. Sure, I could go to the gym, work on my tackle or study maps, but it’s not the same in terms of preparation. I learn something every day I’m on the water, and if I can get an extra 30 days behind the wheel of my Phoenix that should pay big dividends.

Oddly enough, the determination to do this was cemented back home in Illinois. I’ve been chasing a big buck we named “Daggers” for six years. That’s six years of sightings, trail cam pictures, dreams and a few nightmares. This year, I finally got a shot at him with my bow and a clean connection. After all of that obsessing, I finally got my confidence back.

If I could do it in the woods, why not on the water too?

The winter gap has killed me the past couple of years. Now, with my career on the line, it’s Bassmaster Classic or bust, and that’ll require some serious effort and concentration. It’s not just about the particular waters, it’s about keeping the rods in my hand. I’ll also be using Humminbird electronics going forward, so I want to learn them and dial them in as much as humanly possible. It’ll be like going from an Android to an iPhone, and I don’t want to overlook any advantages that they provide.

My gypsy quest started in early December when I headed down to Alabama for the Bassmaster Elite Series orientation meetings in Birmingham. Immediately after those meetings, fellow pro Bill Weidler and his wife Darlene were kind enough to host me at their home for two days of fishing on Lay Lake.

After that, I headed to Tennessee, where I’ll be picking up my new boat, and then I’ll head over to Chickamauga to stay with new Elite — but veteran pro — Buddy Gross, and maybe hang out with Carl Jocumsen, too.

I’ll fly home for Christmas on Dec. 23, but head back south on Dec. 27 to take my boat to get wrapped and then keep on grinding. That’s the model: Make fishing and learning the overwhelming constant in my life. Soon after my return I’ll head down for the first Eastern Open, and that starts the cycle all over again.

Of course I will miss my family. My mom, my sister, my brother-in-law and my nieces and nephew are my biggest fans, but they support this move 100%. They know that this is what I need to do to fulfill my dream. If it all works out, I’m sure that I’ll eventually move down here. I can always go back to Illinois to hunt each fall. 

I don’t think I suck, but the competition on the Elite Series is so brutal that if you’re not constantly adjusting and evolving you’re falling behind. After two seasons where I didn’t fish up to my expectations and my potential, this will be the year when I eliminate any excuses.