Keeping the drive alive



Rick Clunn gets a little help showing off a huge limit of fish caught in 2016.

I had to chuckle while watching TV the other day. The pundits were making a big deal over the fact that last year’s Super Bowl MVP, Tom Brady, at age 44, isn’t ready to retire.

It all sounds familiar.

When I won at the St. John’s River in 2016, people thought it would be great for me to retire and go out on a high note.

I was 70 at the time and hadn’t even considered it.

Then, when I won in 2019, I heard some of the same: “When are you going to retire?”

My answer then and today is similar to what Brady said: “I’ll retire when I no longer love what I do and it no longer challenges me.”

Those who are older know what that means. As you age, the challenging part serves as your mechanism to stay viable. Without the passion and challenge of what you do, regardless of age, you no longer are making a contribution to society and that is a shame.

That became even clearer during the COVID shutdown when I spent three months at home with the family. As nice as the family time was, it was a form of retirement, and as time passed by, I and my family realized it was not a healthy lifestyle. If a person my age doesn’t continue to challenge himself mentally and physically, the lights begin to turn off.

There is a conception within our society that when you reach a certain age you should retire, and that is one of our greatest tragedies. You see it in corporate America where a lot of great resources are put to pasture and replaced by young people who have no experience dealing with the future.

Fishing is a sport that doesn’t make those mistakes. It doesn’t relegate you to becoming a full-time armchair quarterback.

When I was younger, I often said that fishing is something you can enjoy it from age 6 to 60. Today, I’m 75 and proving you can go as long as those fishing challenges and passions remain alive.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a competition angler or the guy who sits on the bank with the cane pole. Fishing is the last remaining vehicle for the masses to stay connected to nature. It’s something we can’t afford to lose.

You choose your own level – whatever keeps you up, active and connected to nature.

Without it, our culture could go insane. I now understand why my dad, after a hard week at work, used to tell my mom, “If I don’t get on the water or into the woods, I’ll go crazy!”

That’s because the outdoors allows your senses to smell, see and hear — they become alive again. Fishing is the vehicle that allows us to benefit from that.

And whether we consciously know it, there’s something outdoors beyond catching fish that draws us there. Sure, we love hooking and landing fish, but that connection with nature and how it benefits us spiritually is what keeps us vibrant.

It enhances our awareness, and that’s what life is all about.

I know I’m not at the peak I once was, but I will never allow myself to believe all my greatest moments are in the past. There are some limitations at 75, but I still strive to achieve those big moments.

And so should you. 

I won in 2016 and again in 2019. If I continue to accept the challenges and love what I’m doing, I believe I can win again.