Don’t blink

I don’t know if any of y’all are like me, but sometimes a song hits you when you’re riding down the road and the emotions of life just kind of take over. That happened to me recently when a Kenny Chesney song came on the radio of my pickup truck.

The chorus goes like this;

“Don't blink
Just like that you're 6 years old and you take a nap and you
Wake up and you're 25 and your high school sweetheart becomes your wife
Don't blink
You just might miss your babies growing like mine did
Turning into moms and dads next thing you know your "better half"
Of 50 years is there in bed
And you're praying God takes you instead
Trust me friend a hundred years goes faster than you think
So don't blink”

That hit me like a mule kicked me, and I started getting emotional – I almost had to pull my truck off the side of the road as I started thinking about my parents, my wife Candy, my boys Josh and Jacob and their wives Erin and Alita and my granddaughters Emerson and Avery, and how much they mean to me.

I couldn’t help but think of my life of 57 years overall. Of college at UAB, at working in my dad’s family business and of all of the fishing I’ve done over the years. How my dad introduced me to tournament fishing on Neely Henry Lake when I was young, then graduating into fishing events around the state of Alabama, and then into regional events as I progressed. 

As the song played on, I had a flashback to almost 20 years ago, sitting in our kitchen at 38 years old and having a family meeting about where life was going to take us. I had fished my way into qualifying for the then FLW Tour, and we were having a family meeting about it. Our boys were 17 and 13 and my going on tour was going to affect them too. 

Josh, my oldest had done most of the things that boys do as they grow, and I’d been there for that. But, Jacob was, at that point, just getting into playing ball, and it meant I would probably miss a lot of those things. He looked at me and told me, “Dad, you’ve gotta do it; it’s a great opportunity.” 

So, we made the decision to become a professional angling family. Nearly 20 years later, and I can’t believe it’s been that long – I felt like I’ve blinked and missed so much. I’m 57 years old, I’ve fished in Forrest Wood Cups and Classics, and I’ve missed checks, cashed checks, won a Toyota Texas Bass Classic and fallen on my face trying to blast a grand slam. 

I’ve driven hundreds of thousands of miles chasing this dream and working for my sponsors. All of this a combination of trying to make a living for my family and fighting for every last bite that I can get to try and make a mark on this sport – even if just for me. I’ve fought, scratched and clawed my way to being a Bassmaster Elite Series angler, and now I’m here getting ready to fish my eighth Bassmaster Classic in my home state. Where has the time gone? 

The 2019 season has been a roller coaster of a year that, in many ways, became the best year of my career. I’ve built closer relationships with sponsors and B.A.S.S., built friendships that have become more like brotherhood and learned a lot about the industry along the way.

I don’t really know if this whole thing makes sense, but as the song ended I just started feeling like I had to remember the important things. I guess the whole thing was exaggerated by the fact that it’s Christmas time, but the thought of my family, the birth of our Lord and Savior and what this time of the year means came washing over me.

I guess I’m saying is that I feel like I’ve blinked, and I am seeing the future of our sport blossoming with this new crop of anglers. I’ve realized that the stage I get to play on has become so important to me because it is a part of my upbringing, and I’m proud to be here. 

That song reminded me of the fact I had a great year, and I’ll be fishing a historic Bassmaster Classic in March – the 50th one. I’m looking forward to it and plan on keeping my eyes wide open for this.