It’s been a crazy three days. It’s like I can’t tell anybody and everybody enough. I’ve already been to my son’s grade school class and talked to them. That was a big deal to him, so it was a big deal to me.
When I stop to think about things, I have to say that I’m as happy for my family as I am for myself or anything else. It hasn’t always been like this for us. We’ve seen tough times.
Back when I first started I fished professionally for two years and then lost my job. I didn’t fish professionally for two years after that. It was tough. At times it was a struggle just to keep food on the table. It’s no fun to have to deal with creditors or ask for more time. And it’s especially no fun to have to borrow money from your family. But that’s what we did.
I took a job in a feed mill to make a little money. It wasn’t the most prestigious job — slinging sacks of feed and horse manure around — but it put food on the table so that’s what I did. As tough as it was, though, I’m thankful for having it and for them to have hired me. I don’t know what we would have done without that paycheck.
After a couple of years I was in a position to fish the Opens. The first year was a little tough. I don’t remember exactly, but I think I finished somewhere round 40th place in the points. Then I got a better job with better money. They agreed to let me fish the Opens that second year, and I qualified for the Bassmaster Elite Series. Things got a lot better after that.
When I think about those times, I’ll tell you that we all stuck together as a family, and we still stick together. I’m not just talking about me and my wife, Jaclyn, either. It’s both of our parents, too. They helped financially, and they have helped take care of the kids when I’ve been on the road. The kids don’t miss anything at school. They always have someone to look after them and to see that they have what they need.
That’s why I say that I’m so happy for our family — every member. I take the Classic win as a sign that this is where we’re supposed to be, that if everyone hangs in there and does things the right way it will work out according to the Lord’s plan.
One thing I do want to mention before I go is something Paul Mueller said to me in the boatyard when I was leading after the first day. I can’t quote him exactly, but basically he said that when things go good the devil has a habit of getting into your head with negative thoughts. When that happens you have to pay him no mind, kick him out of your boat and keep going with a positive attitude.
That’s the first thing I thought of when I lost that nice fish on the final day, and it made a difference.
Another thing was the courtesy that the spectators showed me. I basically fished the same area and they stayed away and never interfered with my fishing. I appreciated that. They showed respect and manners. That speaks well of them and the community.
Last thing: My elbow is OK. The doc gave me a couple of shots — didn’t see anything serious. He’ll check it again after the season is over. I’m good to go.
I want to thank my family again for their love and all of their support. I’m happy for them.