Building friendships on tour

Competition has always been intense on the Bassmaster tournament trail, but that competition among anglers often leads to long-lasting friendships.

Obviously, we’re all competing for the top prize, but the real competition is angler vs. fish.

Those anglers who realize that also discover the value and necessity of building trusting friendships within their angler community along the way.

There is a lot of intensity and high pressure that builds at professional tournaments, and most of us don’t have anyone to count on and talk things through with other than a fellow competitor we can trust.

Those bonding relationships mature over time. When you travel a lot together, it’s easy to learn more about a person, his family life, how he fishes and the kind of information you can share with one another.

Some guys are natural extroverts and will talk with anyone. Although I respect and enjoy being around other Elite competitors, I tend to have a small group of close friends.

A lot of pros, especially the veterans, have their confidants – fellow anglers they can call several times a week to discuss lure trends, fishing conditions as well as sponsor or business issues.

I developed one of those friendships years ago with Davy Hite, and it remains strong today. We both fished our first Bassmaster event at the St. Lawrence River in the fall of 1992.

We got to know each other through another friend of mine, Todd Fulk, and began rooming together at tour events.

That friendship blossomed to a point we did family vacations together, and our wives became good friends. Our kids were similar ages so we had a lot in common outside fishing as well.

In 1997, Davy and I, along with other Bassmaster pros, started fishing FLW to give us more events to fish.

I had a lot of success in FLW and Davy got hot in B.A.S.S. events. Around 2002, one of my sponsors had a conflict with a B.A.S.S. sponsorship so I decided to devote my time to the FLW Tour.

Davy went on to have tremendous success on the Bassmaster circuit, and I had a good career with FLW. We remained friends, but we didn’t talk as much until 2018 when I was considering making a move back to B.A.S.S.

I consulted with Davy, and although I knew he was committed to B.A.S.S., I trusted him. He convinced me changes being made would work, and I made the move based on that trust.

I’m very happy I did. It was definitely one of the best decisions of my career.

Davy retired from competitive fishing to work the TV side and does a great job with it. Now that we see each other more often, we have renewed that friendship, albeit, on a different level.

He’s good at what he does because he’s been on tour, had his share of ups and downs and understands the significant pressures we deal with on and off the water.

That makes him a perfect fit for the TV side of things.

My long-standing friendship with Davy is common; several anglers have travel partners with whom they have built trust and camaraderie.

After all, if you’re going to travel as much as we do and succeed at this sport, you need relatable fellow anglers you enjoy being around and with whom you can build a trustworthy bond.