I feel like I just got off of a roller coaster: one that I have been on for two weeks. There was fear, tears and lots of cheering during the ride and when it was all said and done, I can not help but want to do it again.
With two Elite tournaments left, we found ourselves in Little Rock, AR. This is the one tournament David was not excited about when he looked at the schedule. Once we got there and David got on the water and got some practice in, he thought he could catch a limit. He knew they were not going to weigh much but a top 50 did not seem impossible. A top 50 is what we needed to keep David in a position to make the Classic. On day two David was one of the few guys that lost all his weight for the day because of a barge in the locks. David was 13 minutes late and took a zero for the day. He ended that tournament in 98th place.
What a long drive to Lake Wheeler! David took a hard hit in Arkansas and we knew to make the Bassmaster Classic, he had to win at Wheeler. Win, easy to say but for a guy who has been doing this for 15 years and has over 50 top tens “Win” suddenly became a word that seemed impossible to say. The girls and I kept ourselves busy at the campground, lots of bike riding. We found two great playgrounds in Decatur, one even had a splash area for the kids. The temperature was in the upper 90’s that week, lucky for us, there was an ice cream truck that came through the campground each day!! David practiced and practiced, he left at 5am each morning and stayed out there till 7pm. I tried not to ask him about practice, but it was hard. David and I talk about everything and when he is fishing a tournament I know where he is starting, how long it takes him to get to that spot, what he is throwing and how many other places he has where he thinks he can catch some.
The night before the tournament I felt sick, I thought maybe it was just the heat but I knew better. It was that wonderful feeling of stress. The first morning I watched David leave the camper, but not before he kissed two sleeping little girls and covered them back up. I turned on the computer and found my fingers typing faster than I was thinking, going straight to Bassmaster.com to read the Live Blog. Waiting to see “Walker” enter the screen. Lilly & Olivia woke up, I made them breakfast, but passed on eating anything myself. My mind kept racing: Did David get to his spot, was anyone else there, were the fish biting? Still nothing on the blog about David. Lilly, Olivia & I decided to color & draw. Olivia is becoming quite the little artist like Lilly.
Finally, after refreshing the Live Blog I see that David has 17 pounds, now I know this is not 100%, but that did not stop me from getting excited and reading it to Lilly & Olivia, who quickly started screaming with excitement. David weighed in with 18.2 that day landing him in second place, only 5 ounces from first. Back at the camper I made dinner while David sat outside and worked on his tackle. Lilly and Olivia quickly made friends with a few kids camping close by and were enjoying riding their bikes back in forth in front of the camper. The bigger kids out in front, Olivia peddling her tricycle as fast as she could to keep up and ringing her bell each time she went by. That night, after putting our girls to sleep David told me about his day. “Can you do it again?” I ask. He told me that the fish were there, “But so were six other boats, but they did not catch them as good as I did.” he said.
The second day of the tournament started out a lot like the first, quickly I find myself turning on the computer to see what is going on. Olivia wanted pancakes that morning, while Lilly settled for Reese’s Puffs. I just kept swallowing hard, I did not know that on an empty stomach you still could feel like you were going to get sick. I could see on the blog, that I refreshed often that David made a move and was catching them, but others were catching them too. I would get excited about David catching a 3 pounder, then someone catches a 4 pounder, this continued all day. I got a text message from Tilly Davis, who is camping within sight of our camper. She asked if Lilly and Olivia wanted to have a water balloon fight with her boys. We walked over to their camper, the girls full of excitement about the water war they were about to enter. As for me, my mind continued racing about David. Tilly had some water balloons filled up when we got there. The kids had a great time, her boys would run from Lilly, Lilly chased them with screams of laughter. When it came to Olivia to throw one at them, they would stop and hold still, allowing Olivia to have a chance to actually hit them. It was great hearing all the laughter and giggles that day!
We made it to weigh in to find David already at the dock 15 minutes early, something that he never does. For years, I have found myself staring at the check in boat, then my watch. My eyes scanning the crowd of boats looking for his, finally I would see him – always within a minute or two before he is due in. David was smiling, as he bagged his fish, camera’s were flashing as the girls and I watched. David had 17 pounds that day, enough to land him in first place. Back at the camper his phone was quickly filling up with calls and messages. I found myself looking at the standings to see who fell out of the top 50 that would allow us to jump in front of when it came down to points, David was in 46th place in the point standings and had to be in the top 28 to make the Classic. We got the girls to bed but not before David had to tell them the Story of the Three Little Pigs, he does it in a voice that makes the girls squeal with giggles. David and I sat out side the camper and talked for hours, he’s in first place but we new there were two more days – anything could happen.
Day three, was much like day one and two for me. I felt nauseous all day, refreshing the blog often as the girls and I played. I stayed calm, Lilly and Olivia had no idea I was an emotional wreck inside. During the week David and I watched some of the Stanley Cup Hockey game. Now growing up in Florida, Hockey is a sport I know nothing about. As I watched I could not help but become a fan of these two teams. It is a sport I could not keep up with, as I watched things changed by the second, a lot like fishing. “Why does every guy have a beard?” I asked David, “for good luck” David told me. I remember watching David as he watched Boston celebrate, each player taking turns holding the trophy over their heads. The excitement, the smiles, all I could think about was how much I wanted to see David in that light, I wanted to see that smile.
David had a little over 13 pounds that day, and that was good enough to land him in second place. The top 12 were full of guys that were on the bubble for the Classic, which made it clear to us that David had to win if he was going to qualify for the Classic. That night, like the past three nights, David and I did not get much sleep. Every thirty minutes or so one of us was getting up. We would check the batteries on the boat to make sure they were still charging,or make sure the alarm is set. I even found myself crawling in the boat to open his rod box, just to make sure all his rods were still there.
The Final day – David left that morning at 5:15am to head to take off. I woke the girls up and got them dressed. They went and got their Father’s Day cards they had kept hidden all week from David. We walked down the dock towards David’s boat, bothgirls with their cards tucked under their arm. The cards surprised David. He hugged and kissed them both, I’m pretty sure Olivia told him Happy Birthday but David knew what she meant. After take off I took the girls through McDonald’s for some hot cakes. I ordered myself a breakfast burrito. Back at the camper I cut their pancakes up as fast as I could, then headed to the computer. As I waited to see anything on David, I looked through the McDonald’s bag. They did not put my burrito in there. “Maybe that was a good thing!” I thought.
The first report on David seemed to be between 9 or 10am, it said when David was asked what he had, he made a big zero with his arms over his head. Vandam already had a limit and was culling, other guys were catching them too. I took a deep breath and let it out. “I thought you were not going to look at that thing today” Lilly asked. I smiled at her and we decided to go on a bike ride. It was reported that David had 19 lbs. After high fiving the girls we soon found out David was thinking he had more like 13 lbs, his cameraguy Wes said 14 lbs. “WHAT?!?” I yelled, my phone soon begin to go off with text messages from family, friends and sponsors, they to were reading what I was reading. The girls and I made it to weigh in and it seemed to be the longest day of my life. Every possible reason he was not going to win was playing through my mind. What if he lost the winning fish, what if someone got on his spot, what if he broke down, what time was he due in, I told him 3:15 but what if it was 3:00? I stood on the dock waiting for him, 7 minutes tell 3:15 I see David run to a spot near the take off and start fishing. He does not think he has it. “He is still trying.” I thought. 3:14 I see him check in with the check in boat, seriously could he be any closer? I stayed on the dock listing to Zona show the crowd a huge fish David caught early that day but got off. I had to see David’s face, I had to tell him everything was going to be OK, he pulled up to the dock to drop Wes off before he put his boat on the trailer. David and Wes’s hands met the way guys handshake and Wes put his other hand on top of David’s “You could have this man, and I hope you do!” Wes said. I could tell in David’s face he did not think he had it. As we sat in the crowd watching angler after angler weigh in, I was numb. Is it going to come down to ounces, all I kept picturing was Toledo Bend, David was 13 ounces away from his first win. I watched him go through that pain. He threw his hat, pure emotion. What was he going to do if he lost again, I found myself looking at Mercer – he is going to throw Mercer off stage I thought. What was I going to say to him that I have not said already? VanDam weighed in he had a good bag, Shit – that was all I could think. David was next, he got on stage but not before taking a fish out of the bag to show the crowd, put the fish back in the bag and weigh them I thought. David needed 13 pounds and something to beat him. All I was thinking was David said he had around 13 but he always guesses low, Wes said 14 and I was praying for 15.
15 pounds Mercer yelled, David was more than excited as he held his arm above his head. At this time I noticed McKinnis, Wes, Mike and Angie were standing next to the stage watching with excitement. Wes mouthed to me that “David won!” I shook my head no and pointed at Roy, “one more” I mouthed back. Wes shook his head no and pointed at David, I put my head down and started crying. We have been in this spot before, so many times I watched David walk off stage with his head down when everyone thought he had it. By this time Jerry and Angie was in front of me “Misty, you and the girls have to go back stage, David won!” Angie said. I remember I kept telling Angie that it was not over yet. She and Jerry had to be thinking “what is wrong with this girl?” As Roy headed to the stage with his fish, I scooped up Olivia and grabbed my bag, “Lilly stay with me” I said. Just as we were walking by the stage, I hear the words, we have been waiting on DAVID HAS WON!! I remember screaming then I looked back at Lilly, her face was so red with excitement, both hands in the air as she screamed, I have never heard her scream like that before. We made it to the stage with David, who quickly scooped both girls up in his arms. David and I looked at each other and screamed. I then looked out at the huge crowd who braved the heat to watch the weigh in. They were clapping, fist pumping and cheering David into his first victory. I blinked as fast as I could to get the tears out of my eyes so I could see. I believe I looked at every single person out there. Then I see Jerry, Wes, Mike and Angie clapping for David – what a moment I thought. I may be wrong but I swear the J & M trailer was rocking too.
I look back at David, there’s that smile I thought. I could not be any prouder of him!