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The Answer Should Always Be Yes

Truth be told, I had every intention of sitting down today and writing an article about summer bass fishing. The more I thought about it, however, the more something else tugged on my heart. As I’ve learned throughout my career, if something is speaking to you, you need to write about it. Sometimes, however, we all need to be reminded of the human element of bass fishing. Tips and tricks are great but at the end of the day, we’re all human beings with a common interest and legitimate feelings.

I used to watch a show hosted by an outdoorsman named Tred Barta when I was growing up. You’ll likely recognize the name or remember the show because, to the best of my knowledge, he was a pretty big deal back in the day. If you don’t know who he is, I’m sure there are a bunch of videos on the internet about his show. Although you’ll see a lot of “motivational” quotes on the internet these days posted by folks searching solely for personal affirmation, I heard him say something on his show when I was younger that never left me. It wasn’t meant to go viral or get “likes” or “shares”. When I heard him say it, the words touched my 14-year-old heart.

“If you get invited on an adventure, your answer should always be ‘yes’. No matter what.”

I heard him say that a few decades ago and I thought it was the coolest outlook on life. We all get so caught up in the minutia of day-to-day life and it’s too easy to lose sight of the things that really matter. I was determined to make that my mantra as I grew into a man.

Unfortunately, as life progressed for me, I believe I lost sight of that quote. I guess, or at least I like to think, that it happens to everyone. I went off to college, I got into college fishing, I started working my rear end off to chase my dream in the fishing industry, I met the love of my life, we bought and remodeled a house at the lake and before I knew it, I was 34 years old wondering why I’ve passed on so many opportunities with the most important people in my life.

In a sincere attempt to be succinct, I want to let you in on something that ties all of this together. I try to be as open as possible with our readers and if I make a mistake, I want you to learn from it. Give me a few-hundred words to explain something that happened to me lately; I hope it helps you.

A quick background story

My dad and I used to go fishing with a guide on Lake Lanier named Mack Farr. Although we loved fishing when I was a kid, we weren’t exactly the best at it. We’d go to farm ponds and my dad would even drop me off at ponds after school so I could learn how to catch bass and experiment with different techniques.

I think my dad got Mack’s name through a buddy and one early morning, we packed up and met him at the Lanier Harbor boat ramp. It was chilly that morning and I can still remember the smell of my dad’s coffee in the Suburban cupholder as we talked about the potential of the day ahead.

When we pulled up to the boat ramp, we walked down to Mack’s boat and if there was ever a picture of a fisherman in the dictionary, I believe he would be it. Tanned skin covered in sunscreen, a mustache, bibs and a weatherproof jacket… he had it all. I can remember thinking to myself that I wanted to be just like this man when I grew up. What could be better?

As the years went on and I started getting older, Dad and I kept going on trips with Mack. The trips, however, started becoming more informal and less of a “guide-client” dynamic and more of a friendship-type deal. We probably only did one trip per year with him but man, I’d ask that man thousands of questions about the fishing industry every time we went. The time with my dad and Mack was the highlight of my teenage years. Mack is the one person who encouraged me to learn how to write about fishing. And by gosh… here I am.

I will always say that Mack Farr is the reason you’ve ever read any of my articles or watched any of my videos. Mack Farr is the reason. Period. I will forever be indebted to him.

Then… life happened

As I previously eluded to, life started happening. It was time for me to go to college and start my life. I got involved with a nationally ranked college bass fishing team of which I became the president. But while I was traveling the country, doing well in tournaments and cutting my own swath in the world of bass fishing… those fishing trips on Lanier with my dad stopped. As a grown man now, I imagine he was proud of me for following my dream. But I can’t imagine the pain he probably went through as he essentially lost his best fishing buddy. I sure hope my future son or daughter doesn’t abandon me like I did him.

I don’t know if I was being selfish or if I should just chalk it up to “life”. But I lost touch with that part of my life and looking back, it makes me really sad. I should have done better.

I got pretty good at fishing though as I continued to learn and grow, so Dad and I took a lot of trips in my bass boat on my home lake. But something about Lake Lanier, the fishery that essentially molded me and sparked my passion for the fishing industry, kept calling to me deep in my gut. I don’t know how else to describe it.

And again (let the excuses continue), I became hell-bent on a career in the fishing industry. Everything else went out the window; it was like I had blinders on. Nothing else mattered. I lost girlfriends, friends, some family relationships… because I was going to fish for a living in some capacity, no matter what.

Then I grew up even more, got married, started trying to have a family… the list goes on. About one year ago, it was like I suddenly woke up and realized how selfish, bull-headed and absolutely egocentric I had been acting.

I’m glad I said “yes”

This past spring, Dad called me. We normally talk several times each week, so it was nothing out of the ordinary. He had just retired and asked me if I’d want to go fishing with Mack again and asked if I’d like to bring my wife. At the time of that call, it had been 18 years since my dad and I fished Lanier together.

Read that again. 18 years.

My fault. Not his.

Immediately, thoughts started running through my brain about our jobs, previous social commitments with my wife, article deadlines, scheduled podcast interviews… whatever. Dad laid out a few dates for me and asked me which days would work best for my work schedule. I told him my preferred dates and essentially, he had already committed us to a certain date; I think he knew I had become a bit flighty in my older age. Luckily, my wife and I have great bosses who encouraged us to take the day off and we were able to sneak away for the day.

After that phone call with my dad, I had several nights of deep thinking. I’ll readily admit that I’m an overthinker about most things in life, but something really did click for me. I have always prided myself in saying the word “no” to protect my personal boundaries. For whatever reason, the Good Lord made me a very private man and I take a lot of pride in that. I don’t want folks to know what I’m doing and I like to do my own thing.

But the more I thought about it, the word “no”, especially with ones you love, is a short-term response that can potentially lead to long-term regrets. I said “no” to my buddy Austin about a few fishing trips and a year later, he passed away unexpectedly and I will never, ever forgive myself as long as I live. It makes me sick to my stomach to even type those words.

There is always a reason to say “no”. You can always come up with an excuse.

When you say “yes”, however, I believe it’s a long-term response that can create memories that can potentially change your life. I can act like I thought of that by myself, but my beautiful wife has been a huge help in regards to helping me loosen the hell up and enjoy life a bit more. It has been a process but I truly believe I’m a better man for it.

Traffic, a sunrise, cheeseburgers and a front-porch sunset

My wife and I left the house at 3am and it definitely wasn’t fun getting through all the Memorial Day traffic on that Friday. I’ll admit that I was grumpy for much of the drive but I’m so glad we went. I touched a fishing rod about 10 times throughout the day. I sat behind the center console and just watched and enjoyed my dad and wife catching fish with our old friend, Mack. I get to fish whenever I want to and I wasn’t worried about catching anything that day. I just wanted to watch my 69-year-old dad have a good time and laugh with my wife.

I’ll never forget watching my dad smile in the sunrise as we ran under Brown’s Bridge. I had my hat backwards and my favorite fishing hoodie on as I looked to my left at my beautiful wife wearing one of my old fishing sweatshirts… and she was smiling as big as the ocean is wide. Our old buddy Mack was smiling, too.

And you can bet your butt I was grinning like a mule eating briars.

It was just a perfect fall-like day in the summer and I don’t believe I’ll ever forget any detail of it. Those are the moments, in my mind, where fishing takes a very distant backseat. I was just taking mental snapshots of three of my favorite people.

Once our great trip came to an end, my wife and I sat in our car and I waited for my dad to pull out of the boat ramp parking lot. I could tell she was ready to leave but I needed to see my dad’s truck pull out for some reason; you just never know when it’s the last fishing trip. As I watched him slowly ease out of the Old Federal Boat Ramp, I got a little choked up. I know he had a great time, I know he wishes he could do it every day and it was tough to watch him leave the “happy place” he hadn’t visited in 18 years.

When my wife and I finally got home after dealing with that crazy Atlanta-area Memorial Day traffic, we were absolutely toast. We pulled into town around 7pm, grabbed two cheeseburgers from the local Dairy Queen, stumbled in the door, inhaled our food and she got right in the shower. Within 30 minutes of finishing our fast-food supper, my sweet girl was asleep.

I was absolutely exhausted too, but I couldn’t make myself go to sleep. I turned on the Braves game (I haven’t missed a single game in almost 20 years), grabbed a cold beer from the fridge and walked onto our front porch. The sun was setting over the lake, my girl was asleep with our cat snuggled next to her and I had just had one of the best days of my life. As the remaining scent of early summer honeysuckle wafted over my right shoulder and I sank into a rocking chair, I reflected and wiped an occasional happy tear from my eye.

Dad won’t live forever.

Neither will I.

How many times in life do we get a chance to focus on what really matters, put our careers aside and just be human beings? Not nearly enough, if you ask me.

That day of fishing will be etched in my memory until the day my ashes are returned to the earth. My dad’s smile in the sunrise. My wife’s giggles as she reeled in a giant catfish. Mack’s calming presence and advice. The nostalgia of years past. Dairy Queen cheeseburgers. A lake sunset from our front porch. A cold beer. The most beautiful woman I know fast asleep in our bed.

And it was all because I said the word “yes”.

I encourage you to do the same when afforded the opportunity.