In March of 2002 I fulfilled a dream. I managed to qualify for the Bassmaster Top 150 tour through the Central Opens. Along with this emotional high came the anxiety of what to do now? I had a 13 year career with the Carbondale Fire Department. I managed to move up the ranks to the position of Captain and I knew that in a few years I would more than likely be sitting in the next Assistant Chief position. I had a good solid career going and it certainly was a lot to give up for the dream of fishing professionally.
In hindsight I am very glad that my wife and I made the decision to take a chance on a dream. Growing up in a small town in rural Southern Illinois I did not have an opportunity to fish on larger lakes and river systems. I cut my teeth on local ponds and strip pits close to home. Believe me, I had a lot to learn about competing with the best in the world on lakes and rivers located in different parts of the country.
I have learned a tremendous amount about fishing over my 14-year career, but I feel that there is still a lot left to learn. I always try to keep a positive attitude, an open mind and receptive to any opportunity to growing this sport.
I believe I owe part of my success on tour to the fact that I was a little older when I started competing professionally. I have had several careers in my lifetime and knew that I wanted professional bass fishing to be my last. In addition, the fire service prepared me for the mental aspect of tournament fishing. Making life or death decisions on a fire scene puts it all into perspective. If I make a bad call on the water during a tournament it might cost me a win, but no one dies or gets hurt. Suck it up, brush it off and go on to the next tournament.
Believe it or not, being a professional angler is really a tough job. I don’t get much sympathy from friends, but it is true, Pro Anglers make a lot of sacrifices in their personal lives because of tournament locations and travel time.
On the positive side, I have made some really great friends on tour and met a lot of really super people. I have seen parts of this great country that I never thought I would see. If chose not to follow my dream, I would never have made new lifelong friendships or been able to travel to such great places. Regardless, it has all been well worth the ride and I am really excited about what the future holds!