In my family, the Thanksgiving holiday has always been about expressing gratitude. And first on my list is just that – my family. I’ve put family first, ahead of my bass fishing career. It’s not like I could change that now, even if I wanted to. But that’s just it. I wouldn’t change it if I could.
I got really eaten up with bass fishing when I saw Stanley Mitchell win the Bassmaster Classic in 1981 on the Alabama River when he was 21 years old. I had just graduated from high school. Until then, I’d never thought about bass fishing as a career.
Several years later, when I was about 28 years old, there was a point where I felt like I was ready to make the jump to a full-time fishing career. I had won my share of local and regional events, and had been successful at every level of fishing. I was eaten up with the desire to compete at the highest level and become a full-time pro. In 1983 I’d married the love of my life – Candy. She had supported me and would support me in anything I wanted to do. But I could not leave her at home to raise two small boys alone.
After raising my boys I finally got my opportunity in 2003. I had a very good friend who helped me get started financially. He is one of the many people in my life that I will never forget to be grateful for.
Today, at age 55, after a long career in professional bass fishing, a lot of people still don’t know me. If I’m known for anything, I want it to be that I’m the local guy that put family first. I got to watch my kids – Josh, now 33, and Jacob, 29 – grow up. I coached peewee ball. I was at home for all the important things in their lives.
My dreams were handed down from my father. He hardly ever went fishing when I was growing up without me being in the boat with him. He instilled that in me, and I wanted to instill it in my kids. I love the outdoors. A big part of that for me is the companionship that goes with the time spent outdoors – hunting and fishing. My dad is another very important part of my story. By putting family first, I got to work every day in a business with him for 15 years.
It’s important to never lose sight that this is a “we” sport. There ain’t enough “me” to go around. Without the help of so many people in this journey – not only along the way, but every single day now – I wouldn’t be here and have the opportunity to participate in a sport I love. From sponsors to marshals to tournament officials, all those people have enriched my life. I’ve got friends now from coast to coast.
I feel like the luckiest son of a gun on this earth. I’ve gotten to be a son, a husband, a father and a professional bass fisherman. Not many people get to do everything they’ve wanted to do in life.
In the future, I’ll share with you some tips on bass fishing techniques and tackle in this space. But I wanted to start by expressing my gratitude in this Thanksgiving season. With all the changes in professional bass fishing, I’m very grateful to make a living in such a tremendous sport. And I’m very thankful I have the opportunity to compete on the Bassmaster Elite Series.