For the next seven months, every cast I make will have a purpose.

Every day on the water, every late night fiddling with tackle, every fish I catch – it’ll all be focused on doing my job on the Bassmaster Elite Series.

That’s why it was so important to me to spend three days on the water before the first Elite event with two of my favorite fishing partners: my mom, Carol, and my older brother Chris. We spent three days fishing Lake Logan Martin and Smith Lake, and even though the fishing was on the tough side, it was an opportunity that doesn’t come around enough these days.

I think most of you know how important my mom has been in my tournament fishing career: She was my tournament partner from the time we fished our first team tournament when I was 14, until I started fishing with friends more when I was 17. We used to fish together three times a week when I was a kid, but life has gotten pretty busy the past six or seven years, so my mom and I get to fish maybe one time a year these days.


Every time my mom and I fish together, we talk about fishing memories. Something will remind her of something that happened over 25 years ago, and she’ll start reminding me of details that I’d totally forgotten about.

Like our first tournament together on Lake Castaic, in 1988. Lake Castaic is a 2,400-acre lake north of Los Angeles that used to be this amazing big-bass fishery. It was 100 times better than Lake Falcon – you could catch 100, sometimes 200 fish a day there, and some big ones.

Mom and I had fished for years on “rent-a-boats” on Lake Piru, Casitas, Cachuma, Pyramid and Castaic, fishing for everything from redear to trout to stripers. You could rent these little 14-foot aluminum boats with 9-horsepower motors and a coffee can filled with cement for an anchor, and we had a ball in those boats. When I was 14, though, we went to North Hollywood Marina, got a Ranger 363V with a 150-horse Mercury and entered our first tournament on Castaic.

There were over 150 boats in that tournament, and we did … um … not good. I knew how to catch trout really good, but neither of us knew a thing about bass. We finished in the bottom quarter of the field, basically bombed, but that was our start as a tournament team. We got a lot better pretty fast, and won Angler of the Year honors the next year in the A.B.A. “Super Team,” a three-tournament series on those same lakes.