The 2019 Toyota Bassmaster Elite at Lake Lanier was a unique experience for me, and it demonstrated the importance of hanging tough in the face of adversity.
I was fired up when I first arrived at the tournament. My performance at the St. Johns wasn’t spectacular, but it was good enough to keep me going in a positive direction. I was definitely motivated. All of that was before I developed kidney stones, however.
The pain started on the last day of practice. I knew I was developing a problem but my thinking was that I could fight through it, that it would get better. That thinking didn’t work out too well for me. By the middle of the first day of the tournament I was really hurting.
There’s no way I want to sound like a wimp, but I’m going to tell you that I don’t know if I’ve ever had anything that hurt that bad. It was like someone was sticking a fillet knife in my lower back and then twisting it.
It was so bad that I ended up lying in the bathtub where I was staying just trying to get through it. My roommates actually wanted to call 911. They thought I was that bad. At one point I got a little better and called tournament director Trip Weldon to tell him that he needed to contact my Marshal because I didn’t think I could fish. I was a wreck, physically and mentally.
I finally fell asleep about 2 a.m. while I was in the bathtub. I had no intention of fishing the next day, but about 5 a.m. the alarms went off to wake up my roommates. The importance of fishing a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament hit me. I couldn’t help myself. I knew I had to get up and give it a try, and I’m glad I did.
The first place I stopped produced a couple of bass. The next spot gave up three more. Later in the day I was actually able to cull a couple. I almost made the cut.
What’s important about this story is that the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race is not decided. Just because I’m not at the top right now doesn’t mean I won’t be later this year.
And, there’s the Bassmaster Classic qualification, too. You never know when one keeper might be the difference between qualifying and not qualifying. I’d never forgive myself if I hadn’t fished and missed qualifying by a few ounces.
This is a tough business. The other guys will help you when they can, and they’ll treat you right, always with respect. But that doesn’t mean they’ll lay back just because you’re under the weather. They’ll beat your brains out if they can. I respect that, and I understand it. It’s exactly what I would do if the shoe was on the other foot.
Regardless of the circumstances you need to man up when you’re a professional bass angler. It’s like Hyman Roth said in Godfather II, “This is the business we’ve chosen.”