This year has been the wildest ride of my career, but it started last year. I was burned out.
I didn’t enjoy competitive fishing anymore. My mind was like a moonscape — barren and gray. In my mind, I’d made a decision that I was going to retire.
But, then I thought things through and with the help, advice and guidance of loved ones I realized I needed to give it another chance. After all, I’m a competitive bass angler. It’s my life. So I called B.A.S.S. management and told them I was all in for the 2019 season.
That was no small thing. Basically, I didn’t know a lot of the anglers and in large measure I didn’t know how things would shake out. Nevertheless, I knew that my career was on the water with B.A.S.S.
Things couldn’t have unfolded any better. Our first tournament on the St. Johns River started the year with a big rush. It was a giant bass shootout with me right in the thick of it all. I’ll never forget the battle between me and the master, Rick Clunn.
As the season went along the high never went away. I had a good year but one with some ups and downs. It was like riding a rollercoaster. I had finishes as high as third place and as low as 74th place.
And, through it all, one thing never left my mind — the 50th Bassmaster Classic. All Classics are important. They are, and have been, the greatest fishing tournaments in the history of fishing. But the 50th will be the first among equals.
I say it never left my mind, but I doubt it ever left any of the other anglers' minds either. We all know what it’s going to be like in Birmingham next year. And we all wanted to be out there fishing it.
To thrive through all the challenges over five decades is almost unbelievable. There have been multiple owners, economic ups and downs, political challenges and weather events. Yet here we are holding up our bass for the crowds and giving the media interviews about all the things we had to do to overcome a tough bite and changing conditions, and earning a darn good living doing it.
It’s easy to write all of that, but it wasn’t easy to live though it. This year has been the most stressful, and fun, year of my professional life. It was an adrenaline high that lasted for months.
I’m home right now, and I feel like a wet washcloth. It’s the crash after the rush. There’s nothing left in me. All I want to do is spend time with my kids, my girlfriend and to sleep late every day. There’ll be nothing more stressful than that in my life for a while.
I had a good time at the 2019 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship up on Lake St. Clair. It was an exciting tournament and a real show. But I’m glad it’s over, and I don’t just mean the tournament. I mean the season, too.