It’s not the mountain you have to climb. It’s the pebble in your shoe
— Muhammad Ali
It’s my final day on the Sabine River and 3:15 p.m. comes around. My check-in time is at 4:20 and I’m more than an hour from the ramp. There’s still time left. I have one 14-inch bass in the well. I’m still thinking something great is going to happen. It has to. There’s not a single doubt running through my mind until I make my final flip.
I hook my lure to my Millerod and strap them down. I feel a lump form instantly in the back of my throat. I cannot swallow, talk or think about anything except how badly my first Elite Series event went. The embarrassment of only having one fish to weigh in. I felt like I had let everyone back home down. Their support means everything to me, and I wanted to show them that.
But I didn’t want to go back to the ramp.
My Marshal was talking to me as if nothing was wrong, and I found it hard to answer back with a brave face. My body wanted to do other things, but I went through the motions, sat down and started to idle out of the creek heading to the weigh-in. I put my earphones in and cranked my favorite pump-up music for the hour-long run home.
These negatives that were trying to take over my thoughts and body were what I’d trained to fight off for the last few years. These are the exact fears that stop most people from attempting their dream. But I have trained for this situation, and my will is stronger than any negative vibe that was trying to consume me. All of a sudden I realized I was doing 75 mph in my Skeeter over mirror-calm water. I’m heading back to weigh in on the Elite Series stage, something no Australian has ever done.
The hairs stood up on the back of my neck, and I fought back a tear. This was not from embarrassment or failure but realizing how lucky I was to be there doing what I love. I was proud to be there and I didn’t care how or what happened in this tournament. I was fishing and doing something I’d dreamt of my whole life.
Perfect preparation makes perfect
Anyone who has followed me over the last few months knows my lead-up to this event didn’t go according to plan. I had a very rushed preparation, and it really showed in my result. To be honest, if it wasn’t for some very special people in my life, I wouldn’t have even been in a boat to fish this event!
I couldn’t tell you the last time I went to bed before midnight since arriving in the United States. Most nights were spent staying up working until 2 a.m. and back up at 6 a.m. to continue my preparation. My sponsors stepped up big time. I had packages arriving from Australia the night before I left. The crews at Humminbird were loading my Sabine waypoints onto my new Onix units at 10:30 the night before practice.
Saying I was rushed would be an understatement.
Hang with the best and become the best
Yes, I collided with a log at the start of the first day and it had a crippling effect on the rest of the event. However, this tournament gave me a wake-up call like none other. These guys are insanely good. They are the best in the world and there is no doubt I have to step my game up big-time if I’m going to be competitive.
I believe the pain of losing is the most premium fuel on the planet. There is a fire inside me that will never be put out. The trials and tribulations of last week really amplified my ambition to be a better angler. There’s not a better or steeper learning curve than competing against the best in the world.
Although my fitness and mental strength did not show in my result, I know that it eventually will. This was a small bump in the road. One tournament does not make a career. I’m here for the long haul, and something I heard recently has never run truer to me: “What comes easy won’t last and what lasts won’t come easy.”
I welcome each wall that stands ahead of me. As I break them down, I’ll be that much closer to who I want to be and the better competitor I want to become.
Nothing could have prepared me for what was in store on the weigh-in stage. It was a surreal feeling standing at the weigh-in tanks as Edwin Evers told stories of his day. Brett Hite made me feel a little better as he was happy with the one bass he caught for the day.
As each angler made his way to the stage, my time drew closer. I had no idea what to expect.
I could hear Dave Mercer introducing me as the first Australian in history to fish the Bassmaster Elites. My name was called, and as I turned the corner I was confronted with thousands of fans from all walks of life there to watch a bass fishing weigh-in. Any negative thought I had before that moment simply washed away. Dave made it fun up there and the crowd gave a huge “G’Day Mate” to all the Aussies who were up early watching on Bassmaster.com.
When I walked off that stage I was on an adrenaline rush I’ve never experienced before. It was simply amazing.
I’m now back in Dallas and preparing for Guntersville. I will go into this tournament nothing short of 100 percent ready. I’m more excited about this tournament than the Sabine. I’m going to have to catch the biggest bags of my life every day just to compete with this field, and I could not be more pumped.
Don’t wish it were easier. Wish you were better.!
Fear My Heart!