This has been the toughest year of my professional fishing life ever. I’ve had issues with my mother, couldn’t prefish the way I should and finished dead last in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. It was a mess from beginning to end.
It’s bad enough to disappoint those around you and your fans. It’s much worse to disappoint yourself, and that’s what I did. But tough times don’t last forever. Something happened last week that made things better.
Earlier this year I was inducted into the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame. They asked me to put some things together from my earlier fishing life for a display. That was a good thing for me. It came at just the right time. I now have a whole new perspective on life.
It was kind of a strange deal, really. I hadn’t looked at the trophies and awards I’d won in years. I was just putting my head down and trying to move forward with life one day or one tournament at a time. But when I started going through them I realized that I had had a real fishing career. The years from 1985 into about the year 2000 were especially good.
I sat back and smiled. And when I looked at all the memorabilia I couldn’t help but say to myself, “Did I do all that?”
I don’t say that because I want to brag or shine a light on myself. I don’t. I don’t live in the past. At the same time, though, I needed something to help me pick myself up, something that would make me feel a little better about myself.
This year was one in which family responsibilities overwhelmed me. I’m not complaining. Lord knows my mother took care of me for long enough when I was too little to take care of myself. Nevertheless, I just wasn’t able to put the time and effort into my fishing that fishing the Bassmaster Elite Series requires. The level of competition right now is so strong that if you aren’t at the very top of your game you’re going to get left behind.
That’s exactly what happened to me. By the time I was able to prefish for the last couple of tournaments — a lot of help from other family members made that possible — I felt like there was no point in it. I was so far out of everything that I just went to the tournament and showed up for practice, and then went fishing when the tournament started.
It’s tough to admit that, but it’s true. I need to say that to be honest with everyone and to get it off my chest.
With all of that out of the way let me deal with another issue. Several people have asked me if I’m going to fish next year. I can’t say I blame them. After this year it’s reasonable to think that I wouldn’t. However, reasonable doesn’t make it so.
Yes, I’m going to fish next year. I’ve looked at the schedule and it’s one I like. And I don’t want to retire in last place. I’ve always been proud of my accomplishments in this sport. I want to be proud when I leave it.