‘Some things are more important’

Winning the 2018 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the a Year title is a real honor. It’s the biggest thing to happen in my life when it comes to fishing. Winning a couple of Bassmaster Elite Series events is no small thing, but the AOY is season long. It’s something that’s earned over time. It’s big. 

But, things have to be kept in perspective. Fishing is not the most important thing in life. 

I had a tough year last year. I’m not exactly sure why, but I think it was because things got out of whack in my fishing. I put too much emphasis on practicing to win instead of practicing to do what I do best. I’d fish a technique that I wasn’t all that good just because I thought that was the way to win. This year I fished my strengths and let whatever was going to happen, happen. The results showed. 

Another thing was that I put everything else in my life into perspective this year. The birth of my son, Cooper Jack, had a huge impact on me. It’s unbelievable what something like that can do to your thinking. I realized that regardless of how I fished or where I finished in a tournament I had a responsibility to help take care of him and to set an example for him, even at a young age. 

He’s not going to learn to be the man his mother and I want him to be if all I show him is that winning a tournament is what matters in life. A real man is honest and has integrity. He lives a life that makes everyone around him proud. I’d like to be the man who teaches Cooper Jack to be like that. 

Something else is the relationship I have with his mother, my wife BreeAnna. What happens in our marriage will long outlast whatever I accomplish on the water. She needs my love and support regardless of whether or not I’ve had a good or a bad day at work. After all, she works just as hard as I do.

Taking care of a baby is a full-time job, and maybe harder than trying to find a bass. At least I can take a few minutes to relax and think about nothing. The fish don’t need immediate attention. That’s not always the case with Cooper Jack. 

All of those things combined to help me have a good year. Recognizing that there are other things more important in life than the tournament I’m fishing allowed me to relax and just do my thing. In the end that was what I needed to get things back on track. 

There’s no way to know what next year will bring. I hope it’s good on the fishing side of things but more importantly I’m going to do my best to make things good everywhere else. And, I can assure everyone that I’ll do my very best to bring honor and dignity to the AOY title and everything it means to professional bass fishing and to B.A.S.S.