From the time I could walk I was surrounded by fishing. Growing up in Arkansas, the outdoors is a way of life. The choices weren’t malls and movies, but instead tree stands and bodies of water. Fishing and hunting are what we did.
My grandma had a big pond at her house, and I had a few across the street growing up. I was a little kid with four ponds at my disposal. It was as close to heaven as you can get while on Earth. That’s how I caught the fishing bug, but the tournament bug happened a few years later. When I was 11 or 12 years old, my uncle invited me to fish a night tournament on Lake Maumelle. He paid the entry, we used his truck and boat and I tagged along. Somehow at the end of the night, I got all the winnings from the successful evening of fishing. I was rich! If you were 11 or 12 years old and had $500, you felt rich. That tournament led to another and we won again. I said $500 made a young kid feel rich, well $1,000 was inconceivable.
The tournament bug
From that moment, I fished tournaments every weekend it seemed. I was homeschooled, so I often finished my work as quickly as possible to make for more time on the water. I fished team tournaments locally, and when I turned 16 I was finally allowed to fish solo tournaments. I had won night tournaments and club events throughout this time, but my first important win came at Lake Hamilton. I was 17 years old, and I won a two-day event on Lake Hamilton. I managed to beat all the guys I grew up with, used to fish with. That tournament put everything in perspective. I thought to myself, if you really want this it’s achievable if you work hard enough.
I never really had a “day job”; fishing is all I know. I survived by fishing a couple local tournaments a week as a kid. At 17- or 18-years-old, there weren’t many bills that you had to pay. I had an old truck that I didn’t have payments on, and my parents paid my phone bill. I lived off tournament winnings from night tournaments and local club events, but I also traveled around fishing BFLs and semi-pro events when I could.
My wife Lindsey has been with me every step of the way. We’ve known each other for our entire lives, and we started dating throughout my high school years.
Taking it national
As I mentioned before, I fished from the front of the boat around the house and learned a lot. I took a step forward and decided to fish as a co-angler on the FLW Tour for the next few years. Those were some of the best years as I learned and made connections within the industry. I was blessed to make the Forrest Wood Cup as a co-angler all four years from the back of the boat. In 2008, I not only proposed to Lindsey, but I also won Co-Angler of the Year and took home a title on Beaver Lake as well. Looking back, it was a crucial year in my life as I took the next step in my fishing and the next step in my relationship.
After my co-angler successes, I partnered with a few companies that had faith in me and supported my decision to become a professional. In 2009, I fished the tour from the front of the boat.
In my next column, I’ll share the triumphs and tribulations of a 20-something-year-old pro as I found my way through the professional ranks.