I wasn’t quite ready

About as far back as I can remember, I’ve had the competitive spirit. First, it was racing go-karts and then it was bass fishing. I was a little kid when I raced, but the bass thing developed over time.

My family lived near the water. We weren’t really anglers so much as we were water sports and recreation people. We’d boat and have fun just messing around. And then, as time went on, I developed more of an interest in fishing. That morphed into bass fishing and from there I started competing in tournaments.

When I was 15 years old, I won my first tournament, the first one I ever fished. It was a team event, and the prize was $1,500. I was hooked. I joined a local club and kept moving forward and up. I knew what I wanted to do for a living.

In 2006, I fished a dozen B.A.S.S. tournaments in the Northern and Southern Tour divisions. I qualified for the Bassmaster Elite Series. It was a dream come true, but it also forced me into making a tough decision.

At the time, I knew I could bass fish competitively at a high level, but I also knew that the Elite Series wasn’t at a high level. It was at the highest level, and inside, I knew I probably wasn’t ready for it. But, if I turned B.A.S.S. down would I ever get another chance?

After giving it lots of thought, I paid my entry fees, sharpened my hooks, packed my boat and headed for Texas to fish Lake Amistad. I was now an official Bassmaster Elite Series angler.

That was 12 years ago and as I look back on things I realize that, although I really wasn’t ready in 2007, my decision was the right one. I’ve never regretted it.

My career hasn’t been consistent, but I’ve had my share of success. I won an Elite tournament in 2009 and another one in 2010. I’ve also qualified for three Bassmaster Classics. My first one was in 2011, my second was in 2017 and I fished my third in 2018. And, I’m a member of the B.A.S.S. Millionaire Club. I’ve earned $1 million in prize money over the years.

I won’t be fishing next year’s Classic because I had a horrible year last year. I’m not happy about that, but at the same time I’ve been around long enough to know that a year like that can do one of two things to you — ruin you or motivate you.

Last year will not ruin me. It will motivate me. Maybe a better way to say it is that it’s built a fire under me.

It’s been eight years since I won a tournament. I’m not happy about that. It’s time to change things around, and in my mind there’s no better time in bass fishing’s history to do that than right now. My 2019 season will be about better performances, more media coverage and improved sponsor relations.

At the same time, though, I have to say that I’ve come to realize that fishing isn’t the most important thing in the world. I have three kids — Adalyn, Hunter and Landon — that are far more important to me than any finish in any tournament. My performance as a tournament angler is nothing when compared to my performance as a father. If you fail as a father, you fail.

Here’s the bottom line: I can’t tell you what the future holds, but I can tell you that there’s no better time to fish the Elites than in 2019. And, I’m going to do my very best to take advantage of that.

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