In the sun last week, and another year

There’s been two times I left the St. Lawrence River and wondered if it would be my last on the Bassmaster Elite Series, and this last event was one of them. I left Clayton, N.Y., early on Saturday morning and was home in Paducah, Ky., late that night. I was excited to get home and see Melissa and the kids, and I really wanted to be home.

Along with just wanting to be home, we had plans to get ready for a trip. Melissa and I, her brothers and their wives and another couple who are friends of ours were all heading to Scottsdale, Ariz., to relax for a few days and climb Camelback Mountain.

My brother-in-law Matthew had done Camelback before and took care of those arrangements. We were looking forward to it. It was a pretty good climb, and from where we started the ascent, it was a 1.25-mile hike that gained 1,280 feet in elevation to a little over 2,700 feet above sea level.

I’m the old guy in the group, so I made sure to take my time. I was told before the trip that there are some 300 rescues each year on the mountain for one sort of injury or another, and I wasn’t going to be that guy with a busted ankle or knee, so I paid attention. Whatever pace I chose, it definitely got the heart rate going, and aside from being sore for several days after, I suffered no bumps, bruises, blisters, strains or sprains.

The climb reminded me of being an Elite Series pro as a family man. As an angler, I have a family that depends on me, and as a group we work together to build and maintain this life. This trip was a group goal to see all of us reach the peak of the mountain. It also helped clear my head of the season.

After having three events that I didn’t perform in, I was in real jeopardy of missing the invitation round for next season. Driving home that Saturday, I would check BassTrakk each time I stopped and wonder how it was going to end up. When I finished the season in 71st place in the Progressive Bassmaster Angler of the Year points, I got nervous. But I received a call later that told me I would be back in based on the career average, and I got a sense of relief.

For a moment there, I had a lot of worries in my head and heart. I wondered what my identity would be after 30 years as a professional angler. I started thinking about the financial part of my life and what that would look like.

The bottom line is I didn’t do well enough, and it’s on me to improve and not put myself in that position again. I had some good events, like my second place at Santee Cooper, and made 20- and 30-point gains on Day 2 during of a couple of events, but I didn’t finish the job.

That week “in the sun” of Arizona, the work we all put in to achieve a goal of reaching the peak reminded me that I need to get better and leave no doubt in my situation. I like my life in the sun as a Bassmaster Elite Series pro, and while the eventual culmination of my career may be just ahead on the horizon, I want to decide when it’s time to be finished, not leave it up to the points.

I’ll get myself settled and get back to work to be able to go hard at it again next year – one more year in the sun.