Born and raised on the Chain

After a rookie year on the Bassmaster Elite Series, where things didn’t go my way all that often, a lot of you probably don’t know who I am. That’s understandable, but my goal is to change that going forward. First and foremost, I want to prove myself through my performance on the water, but through this column, I’m also going to introduce you to the real me, and I suspect that it is going to make some heads roll.

In a field full of polished veteran pros, I probably stand out a little bit. Partially, it’s because of my long hair and my accent, but it’s also because of my blue-collar background. I was raised in Ditka country, northern Illinois, although I live close enough to Wisconsin that I can hit it with a rock. We eat Italian beef sandwiches and bratwursts, too, and we drink a few cold beers with them.

I’m 40 years old and I’ve run my own tile and construction business for a long time, and that’s part of what prevented me from trying to make the Elite Series earlier. I was making good money at that job, and then I was doing well in some of the local circuits around home, making more money there. I fished every Wednesday nighter, BFL and club tournament I could find, and it was a pretty profitable deal. The competition was really good too.

Illinois may not have the reputation of states like Texas or Alabama for producing Elite Series pros, but where I live on the Fox Chain of Lakes there are some absolute stud bass fishermen. The “Chain Rats” (that’s what the local Fox Chain sticks are called) are like a second family to me, and I’m proud to represent them out on tour.

I’m also representing my dad. He wasn’t a tournament fisherman, but he could catch the hell out of walleyes and salmon and just about anything else. He took me to Canada for two weeks for the first time when I was 7 years old and that really got me fired up. So yeah, he was awesome, and he supported my fishing, but he was definitely a "tough love" kind of supporter. He just had a different way of showing love than a lot of the made-for-TV fathers. That’s part of who I am; I’m not going to sugarcoat it.

In late 2015 he died unexpectedly, and it totally messed me up. When you lose someone or something so close to you, it changes the way you think, and I kind of figured it was “now or never” for the Opens. Three weeks later, I was fishing my first B.A.S.S. event at Kissimmee. Two years later, I was on the Elite Series stage for the first time. Now I have 19 B.A.S.S. events under my belt, and I’m ready to make a name for myself.

In addition to fishing info, in this space you’re going to get everything from hair care tips to music recommendations to thoughts on the best and worst places to eat at all of the major tournament lakes. I’m an absolute freak for tacos, and so are Seth Feider and Hunter Shryock, so we spent a lot of time on the road this year looking for good tacos to eat. You just can’t perform your best on the water if you’re loaded up with greasy tacos. That’s non-negotiable, and I’m pretty sure we’ll hunt down some more in 2019.

I’m jacked up about deer season too. We’ve got some of the biggest and baddest whitetails in the country up here, so I might talk about that as well. It’s going to be a bit of tournament talk and a lot of stream-of-consciousness ramblings. You never know what you’re going to get with me.

I’m pretty much unfiltered most of the time. I haven’t said anything inappropriate to Dave Mercer on stage yet, but I can’t guarantee that it won’t happen in the future, so stay tuned for more in this column. I promise I’m going to tell it like it is.