Take one tourney off

This past February marked 20 years since my grandfather Clifford Brasher passed away at age 75.

For every second of my life, he was my biggest fan in all that I did.

He loved that I achieved my dream of becoming a sportswriter. He gladly wore a suit he had despised all of his life when I got married. And he got pumped every time I won a fishing tournament.

Believe me, you won’t find my name on any list of Elite Series winners. Or Opens. Or B.A.S.S. Nation events. I was more of an evening pot tournament/weekend club circuit-type guy. But for a while, I was completely eaten up with the idea of fishing for money.

Then Granddaddy got sick, and it became more and more obvious that my time with him was limited. It dawned on me how much more time I could have spent sitting anchored on a bream bed or a crappie hole with him if I had skipped a few tournaments now and then.

It also dawned on me that my dad Mike and my Uncle Harold — the two other men most responsible for making me into a man — were still here. That’s when my focus shifted away from tournaments toward more important things.

I fish with a lot of people these days. But for most trips, the first offer for both of the extra seats in my boat goes to my dad and my uncle — and it will for as long as I’m able to pick up a phone and give them a call.

We’ve had some incredible trips together — trips that produced livewells full of crappie, coolers full of bluegill and shellcracker and trips below Wheeler Dam on the Tennessee River that have produced pictures of 5-pound smallmouth, 10-pound stripers and 15-pound drum.

With me working in the fishing industry, they’ve become accustomed to receiving the latest tackle and gear as Christmas gifts every year. But this year, since we all had pretty much everything we needed, I decided they might like to go somewhere instead.

So, I booked us all a trip with Tyler Brandenburg of Birdman’s Guide Service to go crappie fishing on one of the premier public lakes in Mississippi.

Since only one of us could fish at a time, I insisted they fight over first and second while I settled for third.

During our first 45 minutes on that muddy lake — with Mother Nature providing picture-perfect late-January weather — two guys with more than 100 years of combined fishing experience caught their personal-best crappie.

Dad’s weighed 3.15 pounds, and Uncle Harold’s came in just under that at 3.10. I caught some big ones, too, but my trip was made before I ever wet a hook.

Looking back, that’s the way they did things for me when I was young and learning. I came first, regardless of how much time and aggravation it cost them.

It’s one of the great thrills of my life to be able to return that favor.

It’s a thrill you should experience.

I’m not saying you should completely put tournament fishing aside like I have — and let me be clear, no one ever asked me to do that.

I’m just saying, with spring weather upon us and the fish biting all over the country, challenge yourself to take one tournament off this season and devote that time to someone you don’t see enough of.

Maybe your grandfather likes to catch yellow perch or walleye for the frying pan up North. Maybe your dad likes to cast topwaters at daylight for largemouth. Maybe your kids cringe at the sight of wax worms but love the tug on the end of a line provided by a big, healthy bluegill.

It could be anyone really — a friend who’s had some health problems, a neighbor who retired a couple of years ago just as the world shut down or someone from high school you’ve lost touch with.

From the moment you read the word “challenge” in this column, you probably had someone in mind — and if you’re like me, you’re never very far from your phone.

So, pick up the phone and meet the challenge.

Remember, there will be no pounds and ounces measured and no paycheck. But for once, you’ll decide your start and end time, you’ll decide what you fish for and how and you’ll earn a type of currency more valuable than anything you’ve ever desposited in any bank.

Do it now.

Because fishing sure beats wishing