For those of you present at the final regular season tournament of 2016, you heard the announcement that Ron Broadwater, my fishing partner of twelve years, was retiring from tournament fishing after the Tournament of Champions. While he may still make an appearance as a substitute, he is effectively putting the wraps on a spectacular bass fishing career.
I wanted to let everyone know how much I have appreciated the opportunity to fish and learn from the best fisherman I will ever know. Unlike virtually every sport, the ranks of big tournament professional fishing is not made up of the most talented people in the sport. Instead, it is populated with a relatively small percentage of great fishermen combined with a collection of people who are willing to endure an incredibly difficult lifestyle for very little money. If you like living in cheap motels (or in your tow vehicle), eating lousy food, and habitually losing money, tournament bass fishing is the career of choice for you!
During 2015, the 209th player on the Professional Golfers of America tour earned over $100,000. And almost every golfer on tour has sponsors who cover virtually all expenses - from equipment and clothes, to travel and lodging. Conversely, very few professional fishermen get any significant support from sponsors (fishing manufacturers really suck! IMHO) and the equipment costs for fishermen far exceed that of golfers! Take a look at these two articles to get an idea of how bad it is for fishermen. http://www.ehow.com/info_12059720_much-money-professional-tournament-fis...
With that said, there is little doubt in my mind Ron could have easily been a nationally recognized premier professional bass fisherman had there have been an economic benefit for him to do so. Why? Attention to detail. (In reality, Ron is a premier professional bass fisherman. It’s just that most people don’t know it!)
If you were given the chance to look in his tackle box you would find each hook is sharpened to a razor point. Every lure is tuned to perfection and almost every one is customized in some fashion. Each bait is rigged perfectly - every time, every cast. He has kept meticulous records of all of his fishing trips. Watching him fish is watching efficiency in motion. But most of all, he is the most confident fisherman I have seen. He truly believes he is going to catch a fish on each cast and I know he caught more fish because he believes so.
I am humbled to have helped Ron finish his regular season career by adding yet another tournament victory and a final Angler of the Year title to his resume. When Ron told me after the Prettyboy tournament in August he was “retiring”, I began to feel some self-imposed pressure to capture the AOY title one more time and send Ron off in style. That title is the one we hold in highest regard.
Ronnie and Waino made certain I would remain anxious all the way through the last tournament. They are great fishermen and are always capable of catching a tournament winning bag of fish. It wasn’t until Ronnie gave us a “pre weigh-in” report of their estimated weight that the pressure began to subside.
While Ron and I watched Gary and Don add fish to their weigh-in bag, we didn’t expect that a final tournament victory was going to be in store. However, we were unbelievably surprised when our bag edged out that of Don and Gary. It was the most excited I have ever seen Ron during the time we fished together. Capping off our seventh AOY title with a tournament victory was more than I could have ever hoped.
Ron, I want to publicly say that it has been an incredible ride over these past twelve years. You have taught me so much and made me a much better angler than I could have been otherwise.
Moreover, you have become a trusted friend; someone with whom I have enjoyed spending so many great days on the lakes. I only wish we could have partnered up years before. I hope you will continue to join me on the boat for many more years, to spend time together and regale in the memories of our time spent fishing. The front of my boat is always yours, whenever you want!
We have one more chapter to write in the upcoming TOC. I am really looking forward to it. Wouldn’t it be neat if . . .