The Fish Are On Notice – Bring On 2016!

TJ Cheek Fishing Reports, General 7 Comments

Lately I’ve had several people ask me if I have stopped guiding. Let’s get that answer out of the way right off the bat. No. I’m still guiding, will continue to guide, and likely will stop guiding when I stop breathing. There is a story behind why some folks might think that I walked away from the business.

For years I struggled with one major focus; being at the top of the heap in the fishing guide business here in Georgia. I worked like a maniac to get there and for the last few years I’ve enjoyed the fruits of my labor. I’ve built a successful business and I’ve had the honor and privilege to be able to work alongside my hero and mentor, my father.

Through all of the work and being fully immersed in getting my business to the top, I managed to successfully burn myself out. I love fishing. I LOVE FISHING. However, I was fishing, writing about fishing, podcasting about fishing, doing daily video fishing reports, involved in the political side of fishing, tournament fishing, dealing with the business side of fishing, dealing with sponsors for tournament fishing, and making my entire life about fishing.

I spent a lot of time on the road in 2015 for tournaments. Unfortunately, my family can’t travel with me and I spent that time away from my wife and children. I also learned that a lot of the companies that we as fishermen find ourselves becoming loyal to, are not loyal to us in return. I realized that although I had accomplished many things as an angler, I wasn’t satisfied.

I found myself in a superficial world, the opposite of where the sport of fishing lives and breathes. The number of followers, likes, shares, friends, articles, features, and so on was what became important. I missed the days where spending a few minutes helping someone learn how to rig their tackle correctly at the dock was the highlight of my day. I also realized that my children were growing up right under my nose while I was toiling to become something that I no longer wanted to be.

I don’t want to be a big shot. I have no desire to be a flashy, patch wearing, prostitute for the fishing industry. I want to be a fishing guide that has the honor of sharing the best moments of your year with you. I’ve had the pleasure of watching some of your children grow from high schoolers that were just learning, into adults with a deeper appreciation and level of skill year after year. You’ve shared stories with me about battling illness, losing loved ones, celebrating marriage, and heartbreaks and triumphs of life all while standing on an island of fiberglass floating around the coast of Georgia.

That is where my focus was when I started; being the best fishing guide that I can be. Investing in the experience of my clients and friends. Facilitating your temporary escape from the mundane, the superficial, and falseness of the mainland. Sharing the knowledge that I have with those that seek it.

Through realizing all of this, I also realized that no matter what level of success that I may achieve in the fishing world, that I would never feel fulfilled. Guiding was my sole source of income for several years before I decided to be a part time fireman. Then I became a full time fireman working a schedule of 24 on, 48 off. I found myself equally passionate about saving lives and property as I am about sharing the joy of fishing. That is why over the winter I decided to take a break from fishing during our slowest season to pursue my education in EMS. I’m proud to say that I have become an EMT and in another month or so I will be an Advanced EMT.

This will help me to fulfill one of the three items on my bucket list; Be a good husband, be a good father, and impact someone’s life in a profound way. I have no doubt that fishing does impact people’s lives in a positive way, but giving someone another day with their child, mother, father, sister, friend, or loved one of any kind is profound and a calling that I can’t ignore.

So in short, I’m still a fishing guide. I feel like I let a lot of things go to my head and lost my focus. Now, I want to return to being the guy that I was when I started. I am refreshed and restored and I believe that I have my priorities straight. I’ll still have bad days on the boat and I’ll still have spectacular days. Just know that every time you step foot on my boat you will get 100% of the effort I can give you.

This is a business that is full of big egos. It can become a constant battle of one-upping. I admit that I have my own ego. I don’t want to be the guy that starts to believe his own hype, becomes stagnant, and stops trying new things and growing as an angler.

Some guys will claim rights to certain styles of fishing or techniques and call them their own because they did it first. They resent others that follow them and call them unoriginal or cheaters for using methods that they developed.

They fail to remember that fishing has been around for a long time and that we all benefit from innovations by those that have come before us. At some point there had to be some guy that said “hey, catching fish with my hands sucks. I’m going to come up with something better.”

I found myself stepping across the line and believing my own hype. I started letting myself believe that I had beat the game and there was nothing left to accomplish. I began to look down my nose at someone who didn’t anchor their boat just right, had ugly tackle, or came back in every day with no good stories, no trophies, and no fish.

The great thing about fishing is that everyone will be humbled at some point. You will find a day that no matter how skilled you are, no matter how nice your tackle is, no matter how long you’ve been around, the fish will humiliate you.

The thing about being a fishing guide is that your passion becomes your business. Business tends to bring a lot of ugly inherent qualities along with it. What you end up with is a mutation of a passion that has lost it’s purity. That is, if you fall into the trap of letting your ego, temper, and pride inhabit your soul.

I want this to be a sort of renewing of my vows as a guide, angler, and steward of the sea. A promise to be patient, pass on the knowledge, learn constantly, and forgive.

I want to challenge myself to push outside of my comfort zone, take more risks, and do whatever I can to progress the sport and keep it pure.

I hope to see you on the water this year.

Tight lines,



Comments 7

  1. Good for you!! Just remember your family. They grow up and are gone in the blink of an eye. Hope to be able to fish with you soon. Billy

  2. Good call TJ. Life is too short! I have been right where you are and did what you are doing. It is the greatest decision I ever made and I am confident it will be for you too. Blessings

  3. Congrats on EMT training.We never met but I read your articles and have learned a lot and still have a lot to learn LOL.Great story and you sound like a great Dad as well as a fisherman.

  4. TJ, that was awesome. You really have come full circle to realize what’s important in your life and how to chase your dreams passionately. Thanks for laying it all out there to all your friends, fans and clients. I’m sure others have told you before, but let me tell you again that you are one hell of a great writer and express yourself tremendously well. I wish you all the best in 2016 and forward.

  5. TJ, Congrats on the advancement in training. You will never regret additional certification and classes which enhance your skills. I was on the water nearly every day last summer often fishing in the same area as you or your dad. I have to say you have never revealed an “ego” thing to me!! You and your dad were both professionals each and every day. You shared information so that folks on my boat could enjoy their time on the water even to the point of calling me and telling me there was a big school of jacks in the sound and loaning me a rod to cast to them. I don’t forget things like that. You also gave me good advice regarding clients. Even though I am older than you dad I have great respect for your opinion and skill. I just wanted you to know from my perspective you are a “top shelve” man and guide and I am honored to call you friend!!

  6. Hey Captain TJ- Needing some info. on the bite around St. Simons. It’s been awhile since you’ve posted about the bite(whats biting, what the fish are feeding on, and general location) Always look forward to your fishing reports- PLEASE keep’em coming!

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