Fishing cleanses the soul. There is something about it that makes me more complete. Through fishing, I have caught more than fish. I have caught some of my best friends in life. Fishing connects people through a passion that is rarely found in any other place. People go to school together and then go their own ways. People work together and once that is over, they usually go their separate ways. When people fish together, they have a bond formed through a shared passion that they take with them the rest of their lives.
When I was not even a teenager, I started fishing ponds with a man named Willie Logan. He helped out around our house growing up. You would call him a landscaper these days. Willie and I hunted together in the wintertime and we fished every pond that we could find until I could drive myself. Our fishing bond was tight. He was super old school. I wanted to try everything I was reading in Bassmaster magazine. He fished with a Zebco 22 and usually threw a Crème rigged worm or a Jitterbug. That was about it. I had Daiwa bait casters and every crankbait, spinnerbait, and lizard you could find. He caught plenty of fish. I caught plenty of fish. It was a friendship founded on fishing.
As I went through high school, I had some great fishing friends. When I went to college, there was not a single person I could find at Randolph Macon College that had the same passion for fishing that I did. I had three really close fishing friends that I leaned on during these collegiate years. Rick Hawkins is still a close friend but he and I really spent a lot of time in the boat together at that time. Rick had been all over the country fishing and taught me a lot about what it takes to be a pro. Dr. Greg South had a strong but brief career as a pro angler including a 2nd place in the Bassmaster Classic before returning to his radiology practice full time. Greg showed me a lot and introduced me to many people in the fishing industry. The last fishing friend was my high school buddy, Gavin Fariss. We fished all kinds of team and club tournaments together. Gavin is now a Wildlife Officer in Virginia.
After college, I said I was going all in on becoming a pro bass angler. I soon made many, many more lifelong friends. Not long before I graduated college, I met Jeff Wells in a parking lot in Okeechobee, FL. Jeff was from Michigan and I was from Virginia but our common passion was the deal. Jeff soon introduced me to Coby Cardin from Alabama. Coby and I roomed together my first 3-4 years on tour. When Coby went back to working full time at home and starting a family, I needed a new travel partner. Russ Lane filled that gap and we had some great times. Russ and Coby were friends and from the same area. At the time, Russ was dating a woman that started traveling with him. I soon found myself in need of a new roommate.
After being friends with Mike Iaconelli for a number of years, I called him to see what his rooming situation was. He said that Fred Roumbanis had been traveling with him and Ish Monroe but Freddy was going to go another route the next year. It was perfect but I was reluctant about Ish. So was Ish. Ish and I had a little run in on the water a few years prior. Mike assured us that we would be fine. Mike was 100% correct. Ish, Mike, and I are great friends to this day and boy did we have some great stories over the 12+ years we all roomed together.
These are just a sampling of the great people and friends that you can catch through fishing. I know that most of the ones I mentioned are lifelong fishing friends. Bass can be tricky. Bass can be unpredictable. It is much more fun to have friends to share in the excitement when the stars align, you throw the right bait in the right place, and you get a bite.