I have been fishing as a full-time professional for 23 years, and several weeks ago, as many of you might have heard, I decided it was time to bring that career to a close. Beginning in March, I will move from fishing to broadcasting as a color commentator for The Bassmasters television show and Bassmaster LIVE’s online show, covering the Bassmaster Elite tournaments and the Bassmaster Classic.
This is a perfect transition for me; I couldn’t have drawn it up any better. After being away from home 200 or more nights a year, towing a bass boat hundreds of thousands of miles a year, it’s going to be a great retirement, but not a retirement at all. I will still be involved with bass fishing through B.A.S.S., and through my sponsors, but it will be a great, new career for me.
In 1993, I fished on the Bassmaster trail, and I made my first Bassmaster Classic. I left the S.C. National Guard shortly thereafter, and I’ve been fishing full-time ever since. I’ve been lucky enough to win a Classic, a couple of B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year awards, and an FLW Tour Championship. Now, it’s time to do something else.
To be honest, I’ve been thinking for a couple of years about retiring. I’m 51, and I could see myself fishing two or three more years, but I didn’t want to be fishing Bassmaster Elite tournaments at 65 or 70. I wanted something else to transition to and this opportunity with B.A.S.S. was just too great not to take. I have my license to cruise and sell timber, and I’ll have time to do some of that,
Three years ago, Jerry McKinnis, one of the guys who owns B.A.S.S., and Steve Bowman, who works for Jerry, approached me about doing some broadcasting, doing interviews with pros at tournaments, segments we called “First Looks.” It was really neat to be able to interview my friend, Kevin Van Dam, when he got his 20th Bassmaster win, or to talk with a young Bass Elite pro about possibly winning his first tournament.
A few months ago, Jerry approached me about taking a bigger role in the TV show and in the online, live broadcasts. It took a couple of months to decide, first, talking with my wife, then my two sons, then a couple of my oldest sponsors. Everybody was very positive about it. I finally asked Kevin — he was the first fisherman I talked with — and he was very positive. All of my sponsors were very supportive and stuck with me. When it came down to it, it was a very easy decision to make.
I will be involved with the online show and the live television show. I’ll fly to the Classic in March, but for the other Elite tournaments, I’ll fly to the studio in Little Rock, Ark., and work with Tommy Sanders and Mark Zona on the shows. Mark is a great fisherman, and Tommy is a good fisherman and a great broadcaster. Those two guys could do Monday Night Football or a fishing tournament. I hope I’ll be able to being a little tournament experience to the show, insights into what’s going through a fisherman’s mind, what techniques he’s using — that kind of thing.
The TV show has been going strong, and the online stuff has really been growing. One problem we have had with tournament bass fishing was that nothing was live. You’d see the shows on tape delay, a couple of weeks later, on The Nashville Network or ESPN. It’s been tough to make it a spectator sport, but now, the live coverage has 90,000 viewers, and BASS needed an extra person — that was me.
I know I will not miss towing a bass boat all over the country and being gone from home all the time. I can spend more time with my sponsors and work with people in the industry, and I will be able to fish a few tournaments — just not the Elites. I’m not going to do anything for a year except work on this new job, but I might fish some B.A.S.S. Opens, or some local tournaments around the Carolinas on weekends.
I’m going to continue to write my bass-fishing column for Carolina Sportsman, as I have for the past 10 years. I know I might miss tournament fishing for a while, but I think this is the perfect move for me, at the perfect time. It’s been a great ride so far, and I hope it will continue to be great.