Overcoming offseason obstacles

This week is the opening week for the 2018 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open division. A new year, a fresh start and an itch I have been needing to scratch since the Sabine River tournament slipped by me last June. After going into renal failure on Day 1 of the Sabine River Open, things went downhill, from a great start on Day 1 to a blistering punch in the gut after an 11 ounce loss.

I remember pulling up to Carl Svebeck as we were loading our boats right before weigh-in and telling him that he deserved to win this tournament. I had my opportunities but failed to deliver. While sitting in my boat waiting to weigh in, I knew that my shot at fishing in the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods was null and void. The memories of past blown chances started haunting me.

My very first year of competing in the Opens, I was sitting in second place of the Central Open AOY points after the first day of the last tournament of the year. All I had to do was go out and catch a limit of swimmers and I was in the Elites. What did I do? I caught three and fell to 10th place. All of these negative memories overwhelmed me, and I came to the conclusion it wasnt going to happen, that for some reason it wasn't meant to be. I sort of went into a fishing depression and didn't wet a line till months later. 

When the schedule for the 2018 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Opens was released, I looked at it and didn't think much about it at first. We had just experienced hurricane Harvey, and I was struggling to get my lodge repaired. I was contemplating not fishing anymore and focusing on my business and things that I needed to get done, and tournaments weren't really a priority anymore.

One day I told myself I needed a break from all the stress due to hurricane Harvey. I needed to do some filming for a project I was working on so I called up the cameraman and decided to go out and fish some. As I backed my boat down the ramp and cranked the engine, I started getting my mojo back. Something inside me changed, and I was fired up again to be on the water. It was then that I realized that the best thing that happened to me was to not win that Sabine River tournament. It sounds crazy right?

Maybe it does, but the determination for me to get back out there and compete again was stronger than I have ever felt. I knew that I needed to work harder, spend more time focusing on my failures and not my successes. In life we are all taught that we learn from our mistakes, and they make us stronger and define who we are. One of the greatest quotes that I have ever read came from Vince Lombardi. "The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising again after you fall." In a person's life, you will be knocked down more times than you can count. That day I caught them good, good enough that I knew I was back and ready to get back in the saddle so to speak.  

So when the registration day came, I was waiting to make the call and get signed up. All I had left was to wait for the months to pass by and get started again in 2018. Sounds like a fairy tale ending doesn't it? Well not quite.

For some time I had been having some pain in my left hip. It was getting to the point that I couldn't sleep well at night, and it was causing me to walk with a limp. I started getting injections for what was thought to be bursitis, an inflammation in my hip joint. I grew to live with the pain and move forward. Around the first of November, it was getting worse, and my wife finally talked me into seeing a specialist.

I went to Houston, Texas, and had tests done. The doctor walked out and told me that my hip was wore out, bone on bone, and there was no option other than a total hip replacement. So we scheduled surgery for Feb. 1. When I got home from the doctor that day I started researching recovery times for total hip replacements. What I saw was not good. Recovery was anywhere from six to 12 weeks partial recovery and up to a year for full recovery. This was a huge problem, the first central Open starts on March 1, only four weeks from surgery.

I kept telling myself that I would be able to fish; I would be ready despite what the doctor said. My wife, who is a nurse practitioner, pretty much told me a big 'no' on that. I sat around and moped for a while and called up Chris Bowes and filled him in on what was going on. After chatting with Chris, I decided that the honorable thing to do was withdraw now and give someone on the waiting list a chance to be prepared rather than withdraw at the last minute. I knew my season would be shot and I'd have no chance at the Championship this year.  

On Feb. 1, I had my operation. Despite the pain from the incision, my hip pain was gone. I came home the next day and struggled for a few days trying to hobble around with a walker. Each day got better and better, and when my two week post op appointment came, I walked into the doctor's office with only a cane. My only question for him was, "When can I get back into a boat?"

It took me some bribing and assurance that I wouldn't do anything but sit in a boat, and he agreed to allow me back on the water. So now 3 1/2 weeks post surgery, I am doing a little fishing with some success both in recovery and in fishing. It's disappointing knowing that I backed out of the tournament because I truly believe I could have fished it. But as they always say, better safe than sorry.

I am feeling pretty good now, I still have alot of recovery to go, but I will be ready for the Open at the Arkansas River in April. And with a new hip, those gators dont stand a chance in September.