My mother, my Marshal

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Bassmaster Marshal
Kelley Jaye catches a 7-pounder during the A.R.E. Truck Caps Bassmaster Elite at Toledo Bend

I would like to start off by saying I am not a writer or journalist so bear with me. I am a husband, father, small business owner and a fisherman. As I sit here reflecting on the past seven days, I wanted to share this with my B.A.S.S. family.

After two long, windy, rough practice days last week on Toledo Bend, I laid passed out asleep in my cabin Tuesday night when someone knocked on my door. I will never forget that night. It was my wife, Cheryl on a landline phone the cabins manager brought to me. I had no cell service all week except around the weigh-in site. Cheryl, crying on the other end, told me my mother had passed away an hour ago. Shocked, I couldn't even cry because it was just unbelievable. The single mother who raised two boys on a 60-acre farm in Reeltown, Alabama had given up in her fight with pneumonia.

She was the strongest woman I have ever seen. I asked Cheryl to tell Michael (My stepfather of 16 years) I would fly home in the morning. As it slowly sank in what had just happened, I cried myself to sleep. I woke up Wednesday morning and drove towards the boat ramp to get cell service so I could call and find out the arrangements. Cheryl informed me we had family that would be there Saturday and the visitation would be Sunday and the funeral would be Monday. So this is where the toughest decision I have ever made comes in. Knowing my mother would want me to stay and fish what days I could, I sat around all day the last practice day deciding on what I should do. My heart was not in the tournament any longer and I decided to talk to Tournament Director Trip Weldon and let him know that I would be at the Thursday blast off but might not fish.

I got up the next morning and cried like a baby all the way to the boat ramp. When I got my boat in the water, Mark Menendez pulled over beside me and talked with me. He said he understood what I was going through as he went through it with his wife Donna. He told me my mother would want me to be there and then said this, "Something will happen today and you will realize your mother was with you." I choked up again, sat back in my seat and waited for my number to be called.

After fishing all day with only a small limit, I began questioning myself why I was still there. Ready to call it quits, I pulled up to a point where I caught a few non-keepers in practice. On my first cast to the point, I hook into the largest fish I have caught in an Elite tournament – a 7-pound 14-ounce monster. When I got the big fish in the boat I knew then, Mark was right, something would happen. I looked up and thanked the Lord. Then I thanked my Mom. I knew at that moment I made the right decision and she would be my Marshal the rest of my career. I went on to finish 30th in the Toledo Bend tournament. I want to thank all the B.A.S.S. staff and my fellow Elite anglers for the tremendous amount of prayers, love and compassion they gave me and my family last week during this difficult time. It will, like my mother, forever be remembered.