5 YEARS…5K…5000 MILES…

I had just logged over 5000 miles in May attending KBF tournaments in South Carolina, Wisconsin and Florida (not to mention fishing before or after work) when questions were asked of me.

“What do you get out of it?”

I knew what KBF means to me, what kayak fishing had given me…the joy of the CAKFG tournaments, all of the Tennessee club tournaments, the Hobie Opens; even the weekends with friends.

I was certain how much being in my Hobie Pro Angler sets me free, allows me to clear my head.

There is not a doubt in my mind that the feel of a fish on the other end of a good hookset only leaves me wanting more, and more.

But how do I explain that to someone who doesn’t feel the need to compete, or has never known those feelings? When you can hear the “your fishing in a plastic boat” tone in the questions…when you know they do not believe a kayak tournament trail is real; how do you say anything that matters?

So I started with the one thing everyone who talks about it seems to get:

“I have won about $8000 dollars this year.”

The inevitable response – “In a kayak?!!”

While the money is not the motivational factor for me, it is a bonus; and it usually turns the conversation away from the real reasons I started down this road, and into something they can relate to much easier. But not in this case.

After explaining a bit more…

“Why does it matter where you are in the KBF standings? What do you get for it?”

This is where the answer became (always becomes) more personal. Not going to quote my response, but here is what I get for it. Here is why I do it and what it means to me.

In my twenties (all of my twenties) I would watch Hank Parker and Bill Dance, the In Fisherman or the Bassmasters; anything to do with fishing and think, “how cool that would be to do for a living”. I would fish as often as possible, but instead of chasing that dream, I was too busy putting (mostly) illegal substances in my body or drinking the weekends away. I am not ashamed to talk about that; I have to in order to remind myself “that is not who I am, but it was what I did”. I do so knowing that deep inside of me, that potential to waste my life exists and I choose to never be that guy again.

Married, turned 30, had a daughter, went to college, divorced…travel softball with my bug……fished when time allowed; still watching Hank and Bill, still watching Al Linder…Roland Martin, Jimmy Houston…the Bassmasters.

Woke up in my (very) late forties, found myself working, married to my Joy; our kids out of the house. We bought a Bass Tracker to fish a bit; well, me fish, her to read or knit. During those first couple of years together, I found myself longing to be fishing when I was at work. We would get out as often as time allowed, enjoying the water…but there was still something missing.

In 2013, quadruple bypass. I was fortunate to have not died, to have not had a fatal heart attack. My Joy forced the docs to look farther than they wanted, and they found I had major blockage. I learned that life is waaaaaayyyy too short to waste what I had left, and how awesome the woman I love is for me!

We signed up to do a 5K because I was curious what it would be like, so 6 months after having my chest cracked open, I ran in a 5k….I say “ran in” cause we ran off the start, and across the finish – walked in between….then did another a few months later.

Bought a camper, bought a Jackson Big Tuna to carry with that camper……..fished a local tourney…skunked it…….fished a couple more (that is what was missing!!)…bought the Hobie…found KBF…another Hobie…(thinking about a PA14 now)……blah, blah, blah……..some of you know the story, if not just ask. I love to talk fishin’ and Hobies.

Anyway….last year I found myself moving up in the KBF standings. I fished the Hobie open and finished in the top 25, won AOY in the CAKFG….and all of the sudden I was fishing against the best kayak anglers in the country – and was competitive.

I was being asked how I fished, where I fished. I would get stopped at ramps or stores and asked about my kayak, what KBF was about; I talked about merits of the Hobie, convinced a lot of my friends that they should look up Caney Fork and try out the PA’s, the Outbacks…this year the Compass.

I was answering questions about tackle, lures…being asked my opinion about weather, gear….I was taking new guys out and showing them how to measure fish, how to use the hawg trough (yes, even identifiers in spite of what I did in this year’s Hobie Open, I know how dang it!), how to hold the fish, the camera…took a couple guys crappie fishing and helped them catch their first crappie! I was living the dream….I was no longer just dreaming about doing – I was (am) doing!!!

The feeling of fishing against over 700 anglers and finishing in the number 7 spot…..man oh man. It took me hours of dedication learning new techniques; applying all of those lessons from Hank, Bill, Al, Roland and Jimmy…the BASS guys…all the new guys to accomplish that feat.

I plan to ride it out and see how far being a part of the KBF family can take me while fishing the Hobie tourneys, the local club’s tourneys, Ron Champion’s tourney….plan to fish for redfish (blue fish, one fish two fish….), trout, catfish….any fish.

Say what you will about the organization, you will not sway me.  KBF is a vehicle that allows me to do the thing that I love while competing against the best kayak bass anglers; as far as I am willing to travel. The trails, the challenges, the opens and the championship give me a format to grow, to learn, to challenge myself.

And that after the long winded path, here is why I drove 5000 miles last month, what chasing the tournaments is for….what I get out of it all…

….to challenge myself!

So it ain’t for the money, it ain’t for the show…I may never be the top professional angler, but I will push myself to be as competitive as my abused old body will tolerate…I will live as much as I can in the time left for me and smile on all the late night drives home.

I am proud to be a kayak angler traveling with my Joy; to wherever the best are schooled up to take ‘em on.

So…see ya on the water……

Oh, and stay tuned for “how NOT to NOT secure your identifier in the Hobie Open”.

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