At the time I was going through a divorce, so naturally I wasn’t looking for a story like this, and the anglers didn’t realize the story they were giving me.
It started on the first morning when I was paired up with Alton Jones. Alton is not only a great fisherman, he is well-spoken, intelligent, funny and just a nice person. As we meandered through some of the canals alongside the lake looking for bedding fish, Alton talked about his career. During our conversation he talked about how difficult it is to focus on fishing if his family isn't with him. I thought, “That’s nice.”
Later that day Dean Rojas was showing me his “frogging” technique. We discussed his purchase of a house in Texas. He told me that by having a home in Texas he was able to spend over 30 more days each year with his family. Then he talked about the importance of his family and how they have helped him to achieve success.
Zell Rowland talked about the recent ups and downs of his career. He had been fishing well and then faced a divorce, which caused his fishing to suffer. Then he met a wonderful woman and they were soon engaged. Because of the added stability to his life, he was confident his career would once again take off — and it has.
I began to realize that these anglers, while different, all shared a common thread — stability in the family was vital to their success.
On the second day Ish Monroe took me out for a couple of hours. Ish, the young, single stud of the group. Surely, he would be the one to tell me about all the women he met on the circuit. Wrong!
At one point Ish set aside the jokes and laughter and became quite serious. He said he looks forward to the day when he the woman he will settle down with. Ish said that when he finds that woman he was certain he would become a better competitor. When I asked why he felt that way he said, “Because then, it won’t just be about me.” Good point Mr. Monroe, good point.
As I look back on other anglers I have met, I can see similarities. Don Payne looks at his wife as more than a companion — she is his best friend. Gary Dobyns always shows his gratitude for his wife. Carol Martens has been very grateful for the support of her husband.
Too many anglers leave their families at home, or spend so much time fishing that they take their families for granted. To do that is akin to fishing without hooks. Family is where you find your greatest support.
I have always said that with the exception of a work of art, or a song, great things are not accomplished by one person — it takes a team. When we look at anglers like Jay Yelas, Jimmy Houston, Kevin Van Dam and others, we see they are part of a team. The strongest team possible — family.