This is my 353rd column for Bassmaster Magazine, and by far the hardest I’ve had to write.
Like almost all my previous columns, I’ve procrastinated in writing it until I’m snug against a deadline. This time, it isn’t the final day of magazine production I’m facing — it’s my last day with B.A.S.S.
After 40 1/2 years with the organization, I’ve decided it’s time to retire and spend more time with my wife, Linda, and our children and grandchildren.
It’s a hard column to write because I know I can’t do justice to four decades in the bass fishing world in just 600 words. And it’s an emotional topic; in many ways, retirement is a real source of grief.
It is the very definition of bittersweet. I’m sad to leave a job I’ve loved so long, but excited to see what the next chapter holds.
For the rest of this column — and through the next chapter of life — I’m resolved to forget the bitter and dwell on the sweet.
For starters, fulfilling my long-held dream to be an editor was especially gratifying.
Almost from the time I could read, I pored through my dad’s Field & Stream and Outdoor Life magazines. I loved words, and I loved fishing and hunting. From grade school on, I knew I wanted to be the editor of an outdoor magazine.
That dream became a possibility in 1979, when Ray Scott asked me to go to work for him at B.A.S.S. and train to become editor of Bassmaster. It became a reality in 1984, when Bob Cobb handed me the reins of this magazine so that he could concentrate on launching The Bassmasters TV show.
It’s been a great ride. That’s not to say it’s been a smooth one. In my time with the organization, B.A.S.S. has survived two recessions, an oil crisis, competition from new media, four ownership changes and the departure (in 2006 and 2018) of many of our best-known professional anglers.
Those challenges weren’t easy, and the outcomes weren’t always clear, but through them all, we grew stronger and more determined to succeed.
We survived and even thrived because B.A.S.S. is more than a company. It’s made up of much more than employees, or owners, or advertisers, or even anglers. The driving force of B.A.S.S. is its membership, its fans.
Bass fishing fans are best described as a “subculture,” a group of people devoted to sharing, promoting and enjoying the sport of bass fishing.
I’m grateful to have been involved in this movement, as a fan as well as a participant, for so many years.
Through my job, I’ve shared a boat with the legends of the sport. I’ve fished with the men who invented the lures we still fish with today, and I’ve helped introduce some of bass fishing’s most effective techniques — flipping, drop shotting, wacky worming and Carolina rigging, to name a few — to the angling masses. I’ve made scores of good friends who remain close even though we only see each other a couple of times a year. I’ve fished in the places the big ones live and been fortunate enough to catch a few. I’m grateful.
Early in my career, as I rubbed shoulders with some rich and/or famous outdoor sportsmen, I began to covet their wealth. I complained to my father-in-law, Frank Jennings, that outdoor writing shouldn’t require a vow of poverty.
Frank sagely put things into perspective for me. “Dave,” he said, “think about it: Some men work long hours for years to afford the things you do as part of your job.”
He was right, of course. From that moment on, I’ve been reminded that contentment feels a whole lot better than resentment. Today, I consider myself one of the luckiest individuals on the planet.
Finally, I can’t step off the Back Deck without expressing my undying gratitude to the ones who ultimately made my career possible — the readers of Bassmaster and the fans of B.A.S.S. You’re the best.
“I’ve fished in places the big ones live and been fortunate enough to catch a few.”