It has become a rite of passage for many western bass pros to uproot their lives and move to Alabama or Texas or Tennessee to put them closer to the majority of our events. Tiffanie and I have resisted that pull because most of our family members live within a few hour drive of our Idaho home, and it’s important for us to spend time with them. We’re already on the road so much that if we moved we’d see them even less. We love our road family, but they’re not a substitute for our blood family.
Spending time away from tournaments at home also allows me to somewhat disconnect from the fishing industry. Of course, I never really completely disconnect, but it’s healthy to be able to spend chunks of time in a place that is not totally consumed with the sport.
Of course, that means that when it’s time to get on the road we often have some really long drives ahead of us. I’m pretty sure that the only Bassmaster Elite Series pro who had a longer drive to Eufaula than mine was Cody Hollen, who lives west of us in Oregon.
In the early days of my career, I’d often attack those drives head-on. Before we had our camper, one time Tiff and I drove pretty much non-stop from Idaho to Plattsburgh, N.Y., stopping only for an hour or so per day to eat dinner. That’s 55 hours of driving, but only four turns — no joke. You pretty much take I-90 from one side of the country to the other.
I know that many people would dread those long drives, but I’ve really learned to enjoy them. There’s less noise and just one mission: get from point A to point B. It’s an opportunity to connect with people and get things done without the distractions that would crop up if I were at home. I engage in interviews, call sponsors, and it’s also just a good opportunity to think.
Right now, the world is in a perilous place, and I had time to reflect on that. It also allows me to think about fishing. I reflect on past tournaments when I’m leaving them, and I can also formulate a game plan for the next event. Sometimes I’ll put the phone on the center console and listen to old Bassmaster shows or radio interviews. By the time I arrive I want to have a general understanding of a body of water and the seasonal movements of the fish that live there.
I tow the RV and Tiff pulls the boat. These days usually we go until one of us starts to get tired. Then we’ll pull over into a rest area, truck stop or even a gravel lot, turn on the generator and relax for a little bit. We’re able to cook our own meals, stay healthy, enjoy each other’s company and get a good night’s rest.
Our most recent RV — a Grand Design fifth wheel — has two bathrooms and enables us to get some space when we need it. Then we get up in the morning, make our own breakfast and coffee and hit the road again refreshed. RV living really eliminates much of the road grind and makes it feel like we’re always at home, even when we’re putting in long hours on the road.
My only regret — and this is more a reflection of my Point-A-to-Point-B personality than anything else — is that we rarely carve out the time to stop and enjoy the many incredible sights that our country has to offer. I’ve driven from coast-to-coast many times, and just about everywhere in between, but most of what I see is through a windshield.
Tiff always encourages me strongly to stop when we go by a natural wonder like the Grand Canyon, or a historical landmark like Mount Rushmore, but my response is typically, “Let’s get to our destination.” The funny thing is every time she wins the battle and we stop, I get super excited by what I see. You would think I would learn from my mistakes, but I continue to fight it.
Going forward, I’m going to try to be more open-minded and see the distance between events not primarily as an obstacle to be overcome, but rather as an opportunity to broaden my horizons.