After missing all of 2021 with a medical hardship, Florida pro Jesse Tacoronte, 54, is withdrawing from the 2022 Bassmaster Elite Series to take care of his family.
“I gotta call it quits because family comes first. End of story,” Tacoronte, owner of Enigma Fishing, said Tuesday. “I have two elderly parents at my home on hospice and a 12-year-old nephew to take care. I got a lot of stuff on my plate. Family is absolutely first.”
It’s been a trying year for the Tacorontes. Tragedy struck multiple members of the family around the Elite opener on the St. Johns River. First, Tacoronte’s mother was hospitalized then died days later on Feb. 13. Two days before that, Shane Platter, who manages sales and shows for Enigma, suffered a heart attack. About that same time, Tacoronte’s mother-in-law was in and out of the hospital with lung issues.
“Your brain is not functioning when your mom dies. You can’t fish. There’s no way you can focus on anything,” Tacoronte said. “Then your mother-in-law is in the hospital, your brother-in-law was dead for two hours. I couldn’t concentrate on anything.”
Platter, unconscious for some time at his home, required several defibrillations. Tacoronte said Platter is in a rehabilitation home with no short-term memory — some long-term memory is just returning. Tacoronte and his wife, Danielle, are caring for his 12-year-old son.
Danielle’s mother suffers severe lung issues and has needed multiple treatments and hospitalizations. The Tacorontes are overseeing her care as well as his 84-year-old father’s care at their Orlando home.
“When you’ve got great mother-in-law and a great dad, they deserve you take care of them when they need you,” Tacoronte said. “I’m not going to let my wife by the sole caretaker to three people. It’s not fair to her.
“While I love fishing, my family is way more important. Always has been. I’ve proven it once, I’ll prove it again.”
Tacoronte was a force in his early days fishing on the west coast, but he quit traveling tournaments at 26 and concentrated on raising his son and starting his businesses, which has included real estate and fishing tackle.
“I was a pretty hot stick on the west coast. I was winning every other tournament,” he said. “When Cody was born, I quit. That’s when we moved to Florida. I didn’t want Cody’s first words to be stranger. Unfortunately, that’s fishing. You’re either traveling or you’re not fishing.”
Tacoronte returned to a fuller fishing schedule about a decade ago and qualified to compete on the Elite circuit in 2017 after a great run in the Bassmaster Northern Opens.
Tacoronte has long held the dream of fishing in a Bassmaster Classic, and that dream is simply being put on hold, he said. Tacoronte will fish some St. Croix Bassmaster Opens and might even try to get to the championship via the B.A.S.S. Nation.
“Right now, I just can’t be gone for 10 days to New York, or three weeks to South Dakota and Wisconsin,” he said. “The Classic dream is still alive. That will never stop.”
Sponsors have been understanding about his need to walk away, but Danielle has teared up about the situation — she didn’t want him to give up the dream he’s worked so hard to attain. He explained that taking everything into perspective, him being at home is the most important thing the family, which now includes a 6-month-old grandson.
“This will give me a lot more time with little grandson Jordan, my wonderful son and daughter-in-law,” Tacoronte said.
Anyway, the worry and stress has affected Tacoronte so much it’s been difficult to concentrate on fishing, he said, adding he’s had nurses calling him about treatments while he’s out on the water. He stands last in the Angler of the Year standings at 94th.
“At the end of day, it’s hard to compete when all you’re doing is thinking of not being there,” he said. “I can liken this best to Elon Musk and Twitter. It’s basically a hostile takeover. You don’t have a choice. You’ve got to sell Twitter. And I didn’t have a choice. I have to quit the Elites.
“It’s my fun, and I can’t have any fun right now. I have to concentrate on family and business.”