When I started writing this column for BassFan, I made a promise to always report the good as well as the not-so-good about my journey toward becoming a professional bass fisherman – not to say “look at me!” but rather because I know some of you out there can relate to some of my experiences, good or bad.
Over the last week or so, my attitude and outlook had fallen under the “not so good” column on my ledger of life. Money has been at the root of this negative attitude that I'm usually not known for. Recognizing the mortality of one’s bank account can have that effect on a man.
I've pretty much been living off of the money from my boat that I sold in December, along with the work I do for sponsors and tournament winnings. Since the BFL and the EverStart on Okeechobee ended with me about breaking even and living expenses continuing to be a reality, I decided to fish a Choo Choo Division BFL on Guntersville to hopefully make some money between EverStarts.
Long story short, on a day when everyone absolutely waxed big bags of bass, I came back to the launch with two fish. For the first time, I threw them back without weighing in.
This is no doubt a very tough career to pursue. There are so many different factors that can make it a difficult road, and finding the right person who understands you and your passion and will stand behind you along the way isn't easy.
I have found that in my girlfriend Katie.
Katie and I have been best friends since high school and in recent months we decided to make things official and start a relationship – a long distance one at that, since she still lives in California while I reside in Alabama.
I am very lucky to have Katie because she knows what this sport means to me, and she wants nothing more than to support me, as I support her.
After my depressing finish at the BFL, Katie and I had a “Skype date.” It was during our conversation that I told her that I decided not to weigh my fish in.
She asked why, and I told her it was because it was a waste of time, since I only fished the event to make money and that no one would care if I didn’t weigh in.
That was when she asked me two questions that hit me hard and changed my outlook and attitude about things:
“How do you think that made you look, fishing for the money and not for the enjoyment of your sport?” and “How does that make you look to others, not being proud of your performance, even if you didn’t do well?”
When she asked those two questions I immediately realized that I had fished for the wrong reasons, and that the fact that I didn’t weigh my fish in showed poor sportsmanship and character.
“You know how to cut right to the core of me, Katie."
Big Deal To Me
Though I didn’t put much thought into the fact that I didn’t weigh in my fish at the time, now I am realizing what that really meant to me.
First of all, my sponsors don’t provide me with such great support for me to tuck tail and run when I have a bad day, and even though there wasn’t any media coverage of the event, my peers were still there, and that is reason enough for me to hold my head high and give my sponsors the love that they deserve on the stage.
Secondly, by not weighing those fish I decided not to hold myself accountable for the mistakes I made during the tournament day, but instead wash my hands of a bad finish without owning my performance.
Lastly, I realized that I was less disappointed in myself for having a bad tournament than I was for forgetting why I fish tournaments in the first place – which is because I love the sport.
I woke up the morning after our Skype date feeling a whole lot better.
For the Love of …
I know that in the grand scheme of things nobody really cares whether or not I weigh my fish in at a small regional tournament, but I am writing about it because it was a big deal for me from a moral standpoint, and I feel a lot of you out there can relate to the sport’s humbling moments like this. So at the end of our conversation I made a promise to Katie that I extend to all the people who support me and that I want to share with everyone.
Even if I am not happy with my performance, I promise I will always weigh my fish in, despite how small they are, or how small the tournament is, and will own the results of every day on the water.
Miles "Sonar" Burghoff is a 2012 graduate of the University of Central Florida and the winner of the 2011 BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship. He's an aspiring professional angler who writes a regular column for BassFan. To visit his website, click here. You can also visit him on Facebook and Twitter.