In the 61 years I’ve lived, I’ve seen a lot of things and done a lot of things. With all the changes this year, you might think I see things differently. I don’t. In fact, this is the year I’m going right back to where I came from.
Back when I was a kid growing up in Lexington, N.C., my dad owned a tire shop. He did retreads for big trucks. It was hard, physical work, but it supported our family pretty well. I helped out when I wasn’t in school or doing something else. I learned way back then that the best way to get ahead was to keep your eye on what you wanted and go towards it no matter what was going on around you.
His side of the family didn’t fish much, but my mother’s side did. It was mostly bank fishing for whatever would bite. I just kind of progressed into the bass fishing and tournament thing. But, I didn’t have any money for B.A.S.S. or any other big circuit so I pretty much fished local stuff.
Somewhere around 1985 I started fishing Red Man tournaments. I did OK and by 1989 I was able to put enough money together to start fishing B.A.S.S. events. I never looked back after that.
The highlight of my career was winning the 1993 Bassmaster Classic on Logan Martin Lake out of Birmingham, Ala. If I remember right, I won by about 8 pounds. The next year I won the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title and, in 1997, I won the Forrest Wood Cup. Along with all of that I have four more B.A.S.S. professional level wins.
I’m proud of every accomplishment, but I have to say that there is nothing — I mean nothing — in all of bass fishing that compares with holding up a Bassmaster Classic trophy and hearing that crowd cheer. It’s a goal you’ve worked towards your whole career. There’s just nothing like it in all of bass fishing.
And, yes, I want another one. But, if I don’t start fishing better I’m not going to get it.
This year I finished 97th in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. That is a sorry year. I mean, the other guys aren’t afraid of what you’re doing and neither are the fish.
The reason for what happened is really simple: I didn’t fish my strength. I tried to fish with lures and rigs (plastics) I don’t know much about and that I really didn’t have much confidence in when I did try to fish them.
Plastics weren’t my thing back when I was winning, and they aren’t now. I have trouble with how they work, and I have more trouble with feeling the bottom, knowing what’s down there and being able to use it to my advantage.
Back when I was a kid, I first started fishing with crankbaits because I knew that if I threw one all day I’d finally catch a few. That thinking made my career. I’ve had some tough days, but I’ve had some mighty good ones too. Somehow I got away from that thinking.
That won’t happen in 2019. When the Bassmaster Elite Series gets underway, I’ll have at least two or three crankbaits tied on and ready to go, and they won’t stay dry for long. I may have come a long ways in this business of bass fishing, but I still have a long ways to go.