Sometimes you get a gift that’s perfect. It’s exactly what you want, exactly what you need and it comes from the heart of the giver. You remember it all of your life.
That’s what happened to me when I was 18-years-old. My Christmas gift from my dad was a brand new bass boat, an 18 footer powered by a 150. It was the real deal.
At the time I had graduated high school and just started college. I was fishing local tournaments. But, I was getting more and more serious about my bass fishing. Tournaments were fun but they were also contests that I knew mattered, really mattered. They were beginning to replace sports in my world.
We had a starter boat with a 115 on it at the time — I won’t criticize it — but it wasn’t what I needed to move my fishing up a notch, which was my goal. Despite the fact that I had just headed off to college I knew in my heart that I wanted to be a professional bass tournament angler. It just seemed like the right thing to do to fill that competitive fire in me.
And why shouldn’t I give it a try? I was single with few bills and few responsibilities. If it didn’t work out, I could always do something else with no harm to anyone other than myself. That is not to say, however, that failure was an option. It wasn’t.
Let’s get back to my story. I had a friend who worked at a Skeeter dealership at the time. When Christmas came around that year my dad drew out a stick figure type boat and motor and put it in a gift. It said new Skeeter bass boat. I felt like I did not deserve it. I was beside myself. I couldn’t hardly believe it — even when we went to the dealership and made the order.
Just to tell you how small the fishing world can be, that friend we bought that bass boat from was Ed Loughran. I have known Ed since I was 15. This year he qualified for the Bassmaster Elite Series through the Opens. He will be one of my roommates next year on tour.
When my Skeeter arrived it was the sweetest bass boat I’d ever seen. It was white, black and red. It sort of looked like the old Skeeter team colors, not exact but close. I knew as soon as I saw it that everything else was up to me.
I towed that thing all over the Eastern United States fishing bigger and bigger tournaments along the way. That boat saw New York, Virginia, the Carolinas, Florida and Texas as well as several other states in between. It’s no exaggeration to say that it was a huge part of my moving up the ladder towards the Elite Series.
One of the neatest things I remember about fishing out of it, and traveling with it, was the time I went to the Skeeter plant in Texas. They gave me the full tour. I’d never seen a boat being made before. I was fascinated by all of it. Since then, I have toured multiple other bass boat manufacturing facilities. They are all fascinating.
There have been a lot of changes in the boating industry and in my career since I got that boat for Christmas. That is a fact.
I’ve been fishing out of a Bass Cat now for more than a decade. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. However, the pride of having the boat I needed back then and knowing that it came from my father, a man who truly cared about my future, will always be a part of me. Even now, he comes to a lot of the events to support me. I’m grateful for that.
I hope that somewhere along the line someone will give each of you a gift that you remember like I remember mine. If they do, you will be blessed.