The time is now: Brad Whatley

“Hey now…”

Dateline: Lake Guntersville, Ala.

“db, if I didn’t take the risk this year I may never get the chance again in my life.”
— Brad Whatley 

“Do you want to be safe and good, or do you want to take a chance and be great.”
— Jimmy Johnson

The greatest risk in life, is not taking one. 

My entire philosophy on my life and on my career is pretty simple and is one I have always followed, this: I. Bet. On. Me.

Long ago I learned that you can make impossible, possible, if you bet on yourself to do so. I have never stuck just my toe into anything, it has always been a total full body plunge.

That might help explain stuff of me, to you.

Which also explains why I picked Elite Rookie, Brad Whatley for this story, here in fact is the exact sentence that told me I need to dial this kid up:

“The decision to become a rookie on the 2019 Elite Series was a tough one for Whatley. To do so he had to quit a good job as a supervisor at the Cooper Tire & Rubber manufacturing plant in Texarkana, Ark.”

I read this in a story by good buddy and fellow writer Mark Hicks. (You can dig the whole story by clicking here.)

Huh, I’m thinking, huh, time to dial up the new Elite and ask one question. Fast forward some, back and forth phone calls then:

“So dude, quitting your job huh, where you at head wise?”

There is a pause. Not normally the lead question to a stranger, but I’m not getting any younger so might as well jump on in and see what the kid is made of.

“Don’t want to be sitting in a rocking chair on a porch when I’m old fussing about the fact I didn’t take the chance when I had it, don’t want to be having that regret.”

Bingo dude, right answer. 

“…where are you going…”

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”
— Anais Nin

Sometimes, you know, stuff just lines up, do not go lightly to it, rush into what awaits.

“If I didn’t qualify this year to get in, I would have been done, done, I was running out of time to make the jump...”

I call him a kid but in fact he is 38 years old, married, three children ages 15, 8 and 5, as he tells me this the “father” in me kicks in and I’m thinking “Holy Gawd what have I just told this guy, uh oh…”

“…db I’ve done pretty well in local tournaments, won a nice bit of money and any of the money I win in local tournaments I took it and added it to the mortgage on my house and now it’s paid off, the house…” 

Hmmm, I’m only chewing one TUMS right now.

“…and you know I worked hard and paid for my wife’s college and now she graduated with her RN degree as a nurse and has a great job…”

Frankly I’m feeling a whole lot better right about now.

“…and when this opportunity came up she told me, ‘Now it’s your turn go for it,’ and she is my biggest supporter and without that I wouldn’t be here.”

This is exactly what I said to him once he stopped talking: “Good for you dude, you young man have done it the right way, and I’m going to write that in the story.”

And so I just did.

“… to my friend…”

“I do not choose to be a common man…I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence, the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopias.”
— Peter O’Toole

Here’s the math part of the story gig, I’ll get through it quick, trust me.

Bradley began the year on fire and came out of the first three Elite gigs in 13th AOY place, was looking good for making his goal of the 2020 Bassmaster Classic, then, well…

“The wheels came off, I stumbled, stumbled big time.” 

The first three tourneys his average finish was 25th place, the next two: “brutal, 52nd place and then 66th.”

In AOY points he now sits as I write this at 40th after a drop of 27 spots and right now not horrible for making the Classic but another “stumble” would not be good to say the least.

“db in my entire life I’ve never been east of Louisiana (he’s from Texas), and we began with back-to-back tournaments. It was my first four back-to-backs ever, after 23 days of fishing and driving, fishing and driving I lost 21-pounds and I’m not a big guy.”

Welcome to the “bigs” young man.

“I’ve backed myself into a corner, no doubt, I’ve got no room for error now.”

“You ever been up north, you ever fish in New York state? We’re heading that way soon." 

“Nope.”

 “…said, I'm going out…” 

“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”
— Pablo Picasso

I was asked once what did I consider to be “success.” This is exactly what I told the person, “win one more than you lose.” 

For Brad I’m going to add some to my definition of “success” beginning with this photo of him fishing with his dad and brother.