Good to see Mike go in for several reasons, and it's a big-time amazing honor for a kid from Jersey. Here we go:
1. Do you feel like you're a little too young to be in a Hall of Fame?
> "Yes. Straight up, the answer is yes.
> "...Becky and I – we said, it's like a dream. [They used to think] will that happen one day? Sure, probably after I'm dead and gone but maybe it'll happen one day. For it to happen now – I feel young.
> "I guess it's a mindset thing. I don't feel like I've been doing it as long as I've been doing it, you know? I don't feel like I'm through with what I want to do in the sport, and not just on the tournament side. ...when you look at an accolade like that, it's usually after you're done.
> "So I do feel a little young, but honestly it's the most humbling feeling I've ever had in my life, to be acknowledged for this. To look out at those faces and be in that group of people, it's just an honor. But at the core I'm just a Jersey bum like you."
[Lol like me is right! Bass bum in a state with no bass! 🤯]
2. What business does a kid from Jersey have being in that deal??
> "Man, that's a great question. There's 2 parts of it. One part of is...honestly I am just a kid from Jersey. The nice thing is, in my life I've been able to maintain lot of friendships I've had from when I was a kid. My real close friends are the same 5 dudes, and I still get to fish with them, I get to do Ike Live with some of them...club guys from the Top Rod Bassmasters and the Bass Fever Excaliburs – I still talk to them, I see them at Thursday-nighters, I see them at winter leagues.
> "So there's that element – I haven't changed, they haven't changed. That part of me is shocked that [the HOF] recognized me...that part of me that feels like a kid from Jersey.
> "...with the career that I've had – I've been walking that line. People love me or people hate me. It's such a good change of pace to be recognized – for people to say, 'Hey man, even though you're just a bum from Jersey, we like what you've done. We see the hard work you put in...we think you've had an impact on the growth of the sport.'
> "That feels so good. It kind of makes it all worth it...."
3. Are you surprised it happened so easily – because I thought you might be like one of those Hall of Fame slam dunks that people talk about every year but somehow you don't have the votes.
> "Yeah – I'll try to explain this the right way.... When the announcement was made at the Classic, I felt bad because I'm sitting next to Bill Dance, he announces it...my first thought was that they're joking. I'm looking around, to the camera...am I getting pranked? C'mon, is this really happening? It almost felt like it wasn't real.
> "...I've had a weird relationship with the fans and the industry. It's either a hot or cold sort of thing, and I didn't know if that would maybe hurt me with certain things in my career.
> "Tournament performance, none of that matters. If you're the best in 2 or 3 or 4 days of fishing, you're the best. Same thing with AOY. But this is bigger...people recognize you for having a good impact.
> "Like everybody's life and profession, you go through ups and downs, you have good and bad, successes and failures – that's life. When something like this happens, it makes it feel like it's all worth it.
> "Would I go back and do some things different? Of course. I have some of those. But in general, I don't regret anything. Man what an amazing ride it's been."
4. Does it ever crack you up that "bad boys" in other sports are actually bad, like go to jail bad, and a bad dude in bass fishing is just a guy who yells and beats on his boat a little?
> "[Laughs] Yeah it's so great isn't it? You hit it right on the head man. We actually tried to have fun with that leading up to the HOF through our social media.
> "Yeah it's funny. You know better than anybody – how you're portrayed at certain times is totally different from who you are. My close friends know that, you know that...but people from afar don't see that. They see [a clip on TV] or they see a picture re-tilted a different way – they don't actually see the person.
> "I mentioned in my speech that I never had a problem – it was never something that made me bitter or mad that I was pinned as that. I never ran away from that role because I knew it was gonna help a lot of things. It was going to help me, help my brand. I'm smart enough to know that certain opportunities and exposure come through that.
> "I also knew it was gonna help grow the sport. You need those different characters. Every sport has them. The era I came up, I was fine being that guy if that's the guy they needed me to be. I hope it helped grow the sport, and I think it did. But I'm not really a bad guy."
[It did help grow the sport and Mike 100% is not a bad dude. Me, that's a different story...🤔]
5. Does this mean you're now officially old and about to retire? 😁
> "The first half of that is correct. Yes I'm officially old. Before this whole thing happened, I knew that. I looked in the mirror, the bald spot, the wrinkles, the grey – and now the readers – that gave it away. I already knew I'd crossed the threshold.
> "The retirement part is no. Having that break during covid, I needed that. It wasn't a retirement. It was a little pause I took and I needed that. It made me realize I'm not ready to retire. I still have a lot of drive to compete even though my performance the last few seasons hasn't been great. ...I still love tournament fishing.
> "And then the other businesses – all these other things going on, Bass U, Ike Live, the Ike Foundation: Even when I decide to wave that white flag for tournament fishing, I never see leaving that business. In fact I see stepping up in that business and pushing more."
Bonus Q 1: Do you ever feel like Becky is a slave driver and you just want to quit? 😆
> [He laughed and then made me read that Q to her lol.] "...dude I've never met anybody in my life that has more energy and drive and that 'can't stand still gene' than I do. I knew that from the first day I met her, but it's great.
> "She does push me really hard to do things and go places and get to the next level in everything we're doing. It's great to have that, to have a person pushing you.
> "She's been so important to everything I've done professionally, personally – from a business standpoint she is the driving force. Everything that's been successful, I give her a lot of the credit....
> "I don't mind taking all these orders. She is the boss!"
[That's another reason he deserves to be in the HOF in my 2c: Influential on the media side but most importantly showing his peers that "side gigs" are important to round out a career. I told him that and he said:]
> "It's hard to be a tournament fisherman. It's hard to make it. It's hard to have an impact just being a tournament fisherman...."
Bonus Q 2: Of all the baits that you've helped design over the years, including the old Mann's Stone Jig, what's your favorite?
> "Oh boy. That's a tough one. The Stone Jig has a special place in my heart because it helped me with 2 of the biggest tournament wins in my life.
> "Everybody forgets about the [B.A.S.S] Federation National Championship. I put that right at the top because it's what got me my start. It got me my first national exposure and I made my first Classic through the Federation Nationals. Being a club guy, that's like winning the Classic – the biggest thing you could ever do.
> "90% of the fish came on the Stone Jig. Then a few years later, in the Classic [win], I caught the majority of my fish on it the first day, a few on the second, then it got tough. That changed my life.