Catching California confidence

“Aaron, it’s been a tough year.” I’ve heard that from some people lately, and it’s true. I’m not having the year I would like to have so far, but that doesn’t mean things can’t turn around at any time. It’s incredibly rare to win a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament, and just one can make someone’s year.

Look at guys who have won this year; the young guys (wait, wasn’t that me just yesterday?) are making their names with one blue trophy. John Murray put a cherry on top of one of the best careers anyone from the West Coast has ever had with one of those blue trophies. It’s possible I could get another one at any time this year—I just have to push through, keep grinding and fish with confidence.

It reminds me a little of when I was a kid. My mom called them “death marches,” but they were really just hiking trips. My dad would take me off into the mountains for days or even weeks at a time with very few supplies. I guess in today’s world it would seem kind of crazy, but back then we would just go off into the wild and wander. Sometimes the hikes were brutal. 

They could be hot and miserable or even freezing cold. We’d hike for miles and miles and miles over rocky terrain that would beat up your feet and legs. Twice, as a young kid I hiked to the top of Mount Whitney, a 14,500-foot monster of a mountain that’s the highest in the Lower 48 states. A lot of people overnight that hike, but you can do it in a day if you start well before sunrise and bring plenty of water. Mount Whitney is a beautiful place. The trail starts at a giant waterfall, winds up through green fields and flowing, clear streams full of little trout and eventually climbs up above the tree line into a landscape that looks more like the moon than anywhere else I’ve seen on Earth.

Sometimes, up in the mountains, I felt like we were never going to get home, but we always did. We always made it back. And when I got back, I would remember all of the amazing stuff we saw out there. We saw birds of all shapes and sizes, and fish of all colors in the streams, especially if we were lucky enough to be hiking in the Sierras instead of the desert. Somewhere at the summit of Mt. Whitney, my name is still scribbled in a log book.

Those hikes were hard work, but they were always worth the payoff. In a way, they sort of paved the way for the appreciation of nature that I have, which I think puts me in tune with the lakes in a unique way. Out there in the wild parts of California, my mom and dad were the ones who taught me to have confidence: confidence in myself and confidence in God’s protection.

Confidence looks a little different in an Elite Series tournament. It doesn’t look like footsteps or elevation changes. It looks like trusting your gut on what lure to throw. It looks like pushing up for a spot in a crowded line of boats working a specific shoreline. It looks like knowing a season can turn on any given weekend. Above all that, it looks like trusting Him with my story. 

That’s something I learned as a kid – when you’re at the bottom of a mountain, it’s easy to look up and feel tired, until you remember the view from the top – it’s worth the climb.