KISSIMMEE, Fla. — No matter the weather, hot or cold, wet or dry, he wears black dress slacks. The tournament jersey is always neatly pressed. The black athletic shoes are plain, not stylish.
In 2010, Guy Eaker put away his trademark tournament uniform of four decades. Now it’s coming out of the closet after a four-year retirement left him missing a sport that respects him as much as he loves it back.
Eaker, 75, is set to compete in all three regions of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens. All of that begs the question of why the comeback? The answer is the unconditional love for his wife.
“She’s been loyal to me for fifty years of marriage and supported my tournament career,” he said. “I didn’t hesitate to honor the commitment when she needed me.”
The role reversal came after Pat Eaker was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, a disorder that includes the symptoms of bone and joint debilitation. There is no cure. For nearly two years she was confined to a wheelchair.
“I learned how to grocery shop for the first time in my life,” he said. “Taking over the house and all her responsibilities reminded me just how much she does for me.”
A doctor specializing in the disorder worked with Pat to restore her strength. Eventually, she learned to walk again. The wheelchair is now in the basement of their Cherryville, N.C., home.
Eaker fished local tournaments during Pat’s recovery. He upheld seminar and personal appearance commitments to sponsors. Not surprisingly, all of his Bassmaster Elite Series sponsors remain, including Bojangles Famous Chicken and Biscuits, the North Carolina-based restaurant chain.
“My goal is to fish as long as the good Lord will let me,” he said. “I told Earl Bentz (founder of Triton Boats) the worst thing I can do is sit in a chair and quit fishing. That would be the end of me.”
He thought of applying for the medical exemption available to Elite Series pros, although in his humble way decided against it. Instead, he’s at peace and happy to fish the Opens.
“I might like to get back into the Elite Series. I’ll take it a tournament at a time.”
Eaker received a perfect bill of health after a recent pre-season physical, although he carries evidence of Pat’s return to the kitchen.
“I’ve probably gained ten pounds but I’ll lose it all this week,” he said. “I’m just excited to be back and will go out early and stay out late.”
Eaker’s retirement was necessary, not desired, even though it came by choice. Even so, the man wearing black dress slacks, color-matching athletic shoes and pressed jerseys is back doing what he loves the most.