I was recently added to Johnson Outdoors pro staff and their Adventures on the Water program. Where to begin? I grew up in the very small town of Felda, Florida. My parents where old fashioned country people-my dad was in agriculture and my mom a book keeper. I played sports all through high school and college -played one year of NAIA basketball. I attended a culinary school in North Miami, Johnson and Wales University. I had grand dreams of becoming a chef. To say the least I was consumed by that industry- In a good way. I worked 70-80 hour weeks, just honing my craft. I eventually landed my dream career as an executive chef and worked in some very upscale restaurants. I’ve cooked dinners for celebrities, famous athletes, and even former presidents and candidates. The chef life was a really great ride, but something was always missing. I lacked time for personal reflection and enjoyment. I had put aside one of my greatest passions when my grandfather died in 2001, and that was fishing.
Without a doubt my greatest influence, as far as fishing goes, was my grandfather. He was an avid fisherman and I spent tons of time with him in the 10,000 Islands here in Florida. After he died in 2001, I completely stopped fishing- I didn’t think about it, didn’t even cross my mind. I was so “wounded” by his death. I didn’t want to do something that was “our” thing to do together, without him. I continued to focus on my career and achieved my dream job as an executive chef at a high ranking country club in Naples, Florida. One of my cooks was very into fishing and he would talk to me about nothing but it. I slowly began to converse more about the subject- telling stories and what not, and before I knew it, I realized I had been so busy with work and establishing my career- that I had left out something I truly loved. After telling fish stories and such with my employee, that Christmas he bought me a Penn Fierce 4000. I will never forget it, because I found it to be such a meaningful gift for someone like me. I told him I couldn’t accept it and his response was “you need it,” and boy was he was right.
After having a literal near death experience with my health this past year, I have come to value life and the important things a lot more than I used to. While work is very important to me (mainly to provide for my family now), I had decided it was time to put my overall wellbeing and my family first. I retired from the restaurant industry, at the age of 29 and am now pursuing my real passion-fishing. I work a “9-5” office job and finally have lots of free time to do what I love. Fishing is my outlet of choice. It’s a time of peace, reflection, excitement and great joy. Every time a fish hits the end of my line, it’s like a jolt of lightening throughout my body. To me there isn’t anything like it. Sometimes when I get back from fishing, my wife will ask me “how did you do?” Even if I don’t get a bite, she follows that question with “well, did you enjoy yourself”? And without a doubt my response is “yes.”
To me fishing, it’s just not going out and catching the biggest fish or bragging on some forum about how great of an angler I am. I think of it in the sense of the whole connection you get with nature and the fish, being right there on the water’s edge at all times. You get to experience and see so much more than people realize. To me, fishing is more than the thrill of the hunt. It’s a “therapy” per say. A time to reflect, a time to connect, a time of intriguing adventure, and a time to really grasp a greater appreciation of God’s creation.
Thank you for taking your time to read this
Thanks Lee Youngblood