Time well spent with no regrets

What seems like yesterday has now been 19 years. At that time, I was completing my 13th year of service with the City of Carbondale Fire Department. I had risen to the rank of Captain and was working as an arson investigator with local police departments. My future was more than secure, but my passion for competitive bass fishing was stronger.

The opportunity presented itself to pursue fishing full time, and my wife, Debbie, offered overwhelming support. That’s when I knew in my heart what I had to do, and I was off to pursue the next chapter as a competitor at the highest level in the sport of Bass Fishing.

Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to feel the thrill of victory by winning two Bassmaster events and competing in seven Bassmaster Classics. I will always cherish those memories, experiences, the lifelong friends I’ve made and competing in some of the most beautiful places our country has to offer.

This sport has placed me on a much different front line than in my previous career. I’ve witnessed countless advancements that have benefited bass fishing. For example, the introduction of the first GPS units and now Panoptix, the addition of four-stroke outboard engines and the significant improvement in high-performance hull designs. I was the first to sign with Phoenix Boats, now one of the most popular companies in the industry. Being part of so many improvements in tackle and equipment, still blows my mind.

I learned very quickly, that to survive long term, I had to treat my fishing as a business and perform consistently. I owe most of that knowledge to my title sponsor of 16 years, Jasper Engines and Transmissions. Jasper taught me to be savvy with marketing by sharing with me their experience with NASCAR. I’m also grateful to B.A.S.S. for providing the media outlets needed to grow my exposure and reach the fans.

I couldn’t have succeeded without all of these great organizations.

The plan all along was for this to be my final season. Due to rapidly changing times, I’m starting another new chapter a few months earlier than planned and retiring from the Bassmaster Elite Series, effective immediately.

So, what’s next? In an effort to fill a much-needed void, and with the help of some very talented anglers and friends, we are starting FutureCast Academy. This is a skill development, coaching, mentoring and hands-on program designed for anglers of all ages. Classes will be available to benefit anglers hoping to climb the bass fishing ladder or just have fun catching more fish.

Years ago, being involved in creating the first high school bass fishing team in existence, in Pinckneyville, Ill., my desire to help anglers achieve their goals is back stronger than ever. I will now be able to share the skills, lessons and experiences gained along my journey.

As before, I know in my heart, this is the right choice. To all my friends, family, partners, and most of all the fans that make it all possible, thank you, I’m forever grateful.