My first season as a Bassmaster Elite Series rookie was definitely a learning experience. It was so different than anything I have done before, and it has made me a better fisherman and competitor. So, whether you are a rookie in fishing or in a corporate job, I hope you find some comfort in my lessons learned.
You are never too old to be a rookie
If you are living, you are learning. Your age should not dictate what you can and cannot achieve. I have learned so much about myself and my capabilities this year. I have been challenged and stretched in so many ways, but it has all led me to become a better fisherman. So, take every opportunity to learn from those who have come before you and those on the journey alongside you.
Dreams come true if you work at them and don’t give up
Since I was 5 years old, all I have wanted to do is fish. But, when I saw Bryan Kerchal win the Classic in 1994, I knew that my calling was to fish the Bassmaster Classic. I knew that if an everyday guy like Bryan could put it all out there and achieve his dream, I could do the same. The keys to live out your calling are patience and perseverance. Both are achieved when you employ your faith and lean into your strengths. You can’t give up when it gets tough or when you think the odds are against you. You must fight through it and remember why you do what you do. You need to remember dreams are built not on a single moment but a multitude of moments.
Use your strengths and be prepared to discover others
You have to realize what your strengths are going into everything you do. It could be flipping, sight fishing or offshore fishing. The Elite series and even the Opens allowed me to really dig deep and discover what my fishing strengths are – fishing deep clear water and dirty shallow water. The tournament year has helped me become more methodical and more adaptable to the conditions I face on the water. But it also helped me find what my other strengths are too. My perseverance saw me through the toughest of tournaments. I also discovered that I love to help others learn more about fishing as I supported Angler Alley and other local events.
It’s okay to take your time
I was able to meet Ray Scott about 12 years ago. At the time, my wife and I had just move to Northwest Arkansas, had a 4-year-old daughter and a son on the way. The goal was for me to be a stay at home dad to help us save money, and once the kids started school, I would start looking into building my fishing career. Well, we met Mr. Scott at Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Mo. He looked at me and told me to, “Take your time.” Becoming a professional at anything does not happen overnight. It happens after you have devoted the time and energy to become your best self and invest in the right relationships with those in the industry.
Never be afraid to ask or be coached
As a rookie, you have all the freedom to ask all the questions. No one ever teaches you about the business side of things. Unless you have taken some college classes, you don’t really know about how to market yourself. And unless you have lived there, not everyone will teach you the secrets of how to catch smallmouth bass up north. You will never have all the answers even as a veteran, so surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are in the things you need to learn more about. If you don’t know anything about building the right partnerships, get to know people who can. If you struggle with using certain techniques, it’s okay to ask for some help and practice. But you never know until you ask.
It is okay to be yourself
There are times where someone may give you advice, and you will have to decide how to use it. My wife tells me that feedback is a gift. I also know that unless you have strong values that feedback could compromise them. I have gotten all kinds of feedback; some I have used and some I have not. Make sure you know what you stand for and who you are. People will respect you more for your true self instead of the one you may pretend to be for the sake of someone else’s opinions.
I have been very blessed to have the support system that I have. My family, friends, and partners (special shout out to my Xpress Boats family here) have never hesitated to be there when I needed them and vice versa. So, the last thing that I will share about what I learned is that it is only as good as what you put into it. Do the work and all the good things will come back to you.