From Russellville to Guntersville
Picture this: 2006... Lake Dardanelle Big Bass Bonanza... Make a bad cast and burn in a bitsy flip with a ultra vibe speed craw to make another cast and a 4 1/2 sucks it down to her crushers.. That is a fish catch I don't think I will ever forget. I was 16 years old fishing by myself for $50,000 but that was the day I cashed my first check all on my own. It was one of those milestone moments in a fisherman's life that is etched in his memory forever. I have been fishing as early as I can remember with my Dad and Papa Johnny. After I got too cool to spend a ton of time with them, I started fishing with my best friend, Chase Holt. We spent countless hours fishing together and could have spent even more if we weren't constantly tearing things up on the boat! Luckily we had his dad, Kenny, to "help" us fix anything that went wrong. Those were the good ole days! After that I started fishing local Tuesday night tournaments with a man named Jerry Watson. He was one of those guys who always had a good fishing story but usually backed it up with results. Jerry and I won a bunch of those derbies in the summer of 2006. I was 16 years old but I was eager to learn as much as I could about the sport of bass fishing! Around that time I met Roger Ramey of Regor Lures. I spent what seemed like hundreds of late night in his shop helping him build jigs, spinnerbaits, and buzzbaits. I think that's what spawned my ridiculous lure collection that I have today! After high school I enrolled at Arkansas Tech University and joined the fishing team. I had no idea where this would end up leading me but it was a heck of a ride! My sophomore year I started fishing with Dustin Huggins. Looking back, neither of us really knew jack about fishing but we had one common goal... WIN... Our first event was the ATU Invitational on Dardanelle and we did just that! That first win started what Dustin and I still like to call a "dynasty" We were fortunate to have a better than average college run together. Admittedly our heads got so big we could barely walk through a door! Dustin just recently qualified to fish the FLW All American and I am fishing the FLW Tour. I think if you would have told us that 5 years ago it would have been very hard to believe! College fishing was definitely some of the funnest years of my life. Arkansas Tech won the first ever ACA National School of the Year in 2012. During college, I got a job working for Bass Mafia Tackle. This was where I was introduced to the other side of the fishing industry. I am still thankful for the guys (Bart, Darin, Luke, Hank, and Landell) that gave me an opportunity to fuel my fishing habit and learn how to run a business. After college I continued to fish competitively in the BFL and eventually the Costa Series. Through the BFL, I qualified for the All American on Wilson Lake in 2014 where I finished 7th. That was my first big payday in FLW. Until this point in my life you can see that things were pretty good for me but there was only one problem with all of it. I left God out of the equation.. For 10 years I chased my dreams with a reckless abandon. To keep a long story short it ended up costing me my marriage and a huge part of my life. I know everyone won't understand me saying this and I hope that this isn't taken the wrong way by anyone but that was one of the best things that has ever happened to me as a person. I was completely humbled by all of it. I know without a doubt it was the only thing that could have gotten my attention. I guess through all the success in college I grew to be arrogant, cocky, and just plain selfish. Fishing became a god in my life and consumed every aspect of it! Through all of that I lost a lot but what I gained is something I wouldn't trade for anything in the world, even winning the FLW Cup! gained a true relationship with Christ! He met me right where I was and started fixing me piece by piece. There is a saying that I have read that says "I am not a Christian because I'm strong and I have it all together, it's because I am weak and I admit I need a savior" This couldn't be any more true in my life today. Let's face it, we're all jacked up! Like Paul days I feel like I am "chief among sinners" but that's just even more of a testament of who God is to me. Of course, I have Him to thank more than anything for where I am today but I need to thank several others as well. I need to thank my parents for never handing me anything on a silver platter. Yea, they provided way more than I needed but they always pushed me to work for what I wanted. I also need to thank my partner in crime, Cody Kemp. He came to me with an idea of starting a tackle store early last year and that is still one of my main priorities even fishing the FLW Tour. I approached him with the idea of me fishing the tour and he let me know quickly that he wasn't going to stop me from chasing my dreams. That really meant a lot to me as that was the biggest obstacle I could see I'm making the leap. Even as I write this, He is at the store working while I am gone. You really can't beat a business partner like that but more importantly a friend. I'm going to go ahead and say we will be seeing him out here within the next few years too! I really need to thank my closest friends Rick, Rita, Tim, Jamey and the whole Pleasant Hill / One Refuge Crew for being a light when my world was so dark. Last but not least I need to thank all of my great sponsors. You guys know who you are! I am the type of guy who leaves very little room for error in my equipment so I strive to fish the the best possible products available in this industry and I am so thankful to represent companies I believe are the best in the world. Here I am one day from the biggest tournament in my life and it still hasn't set in. I'm sure it will about 7:00 AM after the Anthem and we start blasting off. Just 5 bites a day! Thanks everyone for the prayers and support! Love you guys!
Omega Prostaff and FLW Tour Rookie Evan Barnes heads for stop Six.
"10:45 at night...10 hours into the drive to La Crosse...It's uphill, the whole way..."