- Craig Lamb
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FLORENCE, Ala. -- Denny Brauer matter-of-factly took the lead at Wednesday's first day of the Bassmaster Elite Series Alabama Charge.
Meanwhile, a ritual that has repeated itself countless times over the past 25 years happened off stage as well.
Backstage was Shirley Brauer, her twinkling eyes and jubilant expression just as emotionally charged as the first time the ritual happened some 25 years ago.
Brauer's wife of 41 years might stand in the visual background, but it's Shirley who gets all the credit from one of the sport's icons.
"She is the reason I'm standing here now," he said. "There's no way I'd be here without the sacrifices she makes above and beyond what a wife is expected to do."
Shirley admits the trials and tribulations that come with balancing a professional bass fishing career with a marriage have been a blessing in disguise.
"We've always worked as a team since the beginning, making decisions together about sponsors and what's best for him," she says. "It's made us closer because we've had to face a lot of challenges since Denny went full-time professionally."
That happened in 1984, just two years after Denny had qualified for his first Bassmaster Classic. Before then he was an up-and-coming B.A.S.S. Federation Nation weekend warrior, having started a club in their home state of Nebraska.
Success came quickly at the club level and the Brauers made a risky move to Missouri where Denny could hone his fishing skills on Lake of the Ozarks. They've been there ever since.
"We decided to give it three years and if it didn't work then he would go back to work as a bricklayer," she recalls. "It was a big move, a gamble but I believed in him 100 percent even though I didn't' understand the concept behind making money through fishing."
"We started with nothing," she adds. "It takes a total commitment on the part of a wife to make the sacrifices we've made to make our marriage and his business what it is now."
Denny Brauer stands a good chance of taking the leader's spotlight again after Thursday's second day on Pickwick Lake. If it happens you can count on seeing the same reaction backstage from Shirley Brauer.
History will repeat itself once again as it has many times in the past.