This stuff never gets old

Here it is, the calendar has just turned February, and we're less than a week away from Bassmaster Elite Series competition. The offseason was a short one since we didn't finish up the 2020 Elite Series until Nov. 8. Even though our time off was short, it's been an eventful offseason for me.

Before I get too far along though, I have to say how much I appreciated all of the hard work the staff at B.A.S.S. put in to make sure we were able to finish our full 2020 tournament schedule. We were the only national league that did that. It made a difference for us being able to fish the full season and do our job for our sponsors – I very much appreciated that, especially given the tough circumstances last year.

Now back to what I was saying — even though it’s been a compressed timeframe and a lot of work to get my Skeeter/Yamaha rig set up with Humminbirds, Minn Kota Ultrex and Raptors, then wrapped and logo-ed, then loaded up with Kistler rods, Dirty Jigs, PH Customs and Reaction Innovations – I gotta say: This stuff never gets old.

I ended up having shoulder surgery at the end of November. I was referred to The Orthopedic Center and Dr. Greco in Huntsville, Ala. He got in there and said I only had three small tears in my rotator cuff, but I had some impingement of my AC joint that he had to clean up. He said it was one of the biggest bone spurs he had ever seen.

He fixed the tears, ground the spur off and worked on the AC joint. I feel a lot better now, but that was some of the worst pain I’ve felt in a long time. It hurt like a son of a gun, and I think Candy was ready to send me off to someone else for a while. I only get a little sore now, but boy did that hurt.

Those injuries really did affect my fishing last year, and for a while there, I was wondering if I was going to be able to give it a go in 2021. From about Lake Guntersville on, I fished on pure will. I told Dr. Greco that I fished on “a whole lotta want to, mixed with a whole lotta have to.” I did everything I could to put the pain out of my mind and go at it – I’m grateful for his skill.

With surgery and recovery behind me, I can focus on the next event, and like I said earlier, it doesn’t get old. I’ve been fishing full time since 2003 and you’d think that all of this offseason prep would get old, but it doesn’t.

I’m looking forward to getting down to the St. Johns River and sliding this Skeeter into the water and getting back to casting for a living. I know that everybody from last year’s field is back, along with some new and returning faces, and it should make for an interesting 2021.

The thing about the Elite Series is that every one of us has earned our chance to be here. Every one of us has fans who see us as heroes and others who see us as villains, but the truth is, we all respect the skills of our competitors and the effort it takes to get here — and to stay here.

We all have some basic things in common. We all love the outdoors, and we all have a burning desire to compete out here. Each of these guys is a great angler, and they are all great competitors who can put something amazing together at any event.

I respect the skills of my competitors and the dedication it takes to get here, to get ready to be here each year and the desire it takes to butt heads with all of us. I’m looking forward to another year of going at it with all of them.

I told you – this stuff never gets old – I’ll see you all out there.