‘I’m feeling the fire!’

It’s a funny thing, winning a Bassmaster Elite Series event. It pushes you forward with a new level of confidence.

I’ve won before — an FLW Tour event in 2013 — but it didn’t feel like this one. I’m not saying anything bad about it, but I was 23 at the time and I didn’t appreciate how special a major win was in your life. This one feels different.

The thing about professional fishing is that you can do everything right and still get beat. It’s not something that you can count on no matter how good you’re doing or how clean you’re fishing. You’ve got the other anglers and the fish to compete against. That can turn into a tough combination in a hurry.   

My practice wasn’t especially good. It wasn’t bad but at the same time it didn’t give me any idea that I would win. I suppose fair would be the best way to describe it. But then on the afternoon of the first day things started to look up, and they got better on the second day.

It was one of those tournaments where things started to fall into place when the competition started. The more I fished, the better things got. And the better things got the more confidence I had. 

The whole thing is like a dream. It feels like the start of a new career for me. I’ve struggled since I made the move. It’s one of those things where you’re frustrated because it’s not like you aren’t being somewhat successful but at the same time you know you aren’t fishing up to your potential. 

Some of that feeling was (is) because of the competition. I had no idea how good these guys are until I fished against them. Every angler in the Elite Series is capable of winning. There’s no deadwood at any level, not anywhere or with anyone. They all know what they’re doing, and they’ve all been there before — big tournaments, big pressure, big money. It got my eyes opened, I’ll tell you that.

Saying all of that, however, this was not a one man show. I want to thank my wife, Amanda, for her love and support. I’m gone a lot. She’s at home taking care of things by herself and looking after our son, Cade. I couldn’t concentrate on my fishing if I didn’t know she had everything under control. She matters. 

Amanda and Cade were able to make it on the last day to see our win. I especially want to thank all the guys and gals from B.A.S.S. who let Cade go in the back with me. He got to pet the fish. He got a real big kick out of that. 

Another thing I want to say is that David Mullins, my roommate, helped me with some information during practice. It made a big difference. Marty Robinson deserves a shout, too. We were fishing the same spot on the last day. He backed out and let me have it all to myself. That might have been the difference between my winning and not winning. 

What he did was huge. When he left our spot he took a chance on making less money and on earning fewer points from the event. Every year you hear stories about guys missing the Classic by one or two fish. Taking a chance on that says something about the man. 

The bottom line is that winning the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has built a fire under me, and I’m feeling it!