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David Dudley: On the Mend After Shoulder Surgery

From the time he was 6 until he graduated from high school, he was involved in intermural sports every season: flat-out and full speed ahead.

Add to his workout portfolio about six years of racquetball league play and a few million casts to everything from bass to bluefish, and it’s easy to understand why some of the temporary aches and pains he’s felt along the way have become more chronic in nature. Last year, an orthopedic surgeon told the Castrol pro that he would probably need double-shoulder surgery to correct degenerative damage. It was nothing that required immediate attention, the doctor informed him, but gradually the wear and tear on his shoulders would only get worse unless he underwent the surgery.

A few days ago, Dudley’s left shoulder was operated on. In three weeks, he will begin physical therapy to determine if there’s any lingering damage to the left shoulder. The doctor doesn’t expect that there will be, says Dudley.

"It wasn’t like replacement surgery where you have to take something out and put something else back in. It was strictly corrective," Dudley says. "It’s been building for a while – the soreness – and the doctor said it was because there’s no cartilage or anything between my collarbone and shoulder bone. So they were rubbing and grinding together."

As an athlete, Dudley has developed a mental toughness that maximizes performance and shunts pain to the background, but the degenerative damage to his shoulders involved more than just discomfort and was beginning to affect his ability to give fishing his best effort.

"On Kentucky Lake, in the last tournament of the [Walmart FLW Tour] season, I was fishing a football jig and it was like pop, pop, pop in my shoulder every time I moved it," recalls Dudley. "It just didn’t feel right. It was like rubbing two sticks together."

The surgeon told Dudley that he wants to wait until the latter has undergone physical therapy for a couple of weeks before determining if surgery to Dudley’s right shoulder will be necessary, or if another alternative might achieve the same results.

"My left shoulder was definitely the worst it was toast," says the right-handed Dudley. "The doctor went in there and shaved off some bone from the shoulder blade, and then the collar bone, so they wouldn’t rub together anymore."

Though Dudley says he feels more pain "just having to sit around," his arm will be sore for a while, but he doesn’t expect it to affect his approach to fishing long-term.

"I used to be sort of 90 percent baitcaster and 10 percent spinning, but now it’s more like 60 percent spinning and 40 percent baitcaster," he says. "So I use my right arm more and reel with my left hand, because fishing has evolved and now there’s drop-shotting and shaky heads and wacky worms with spinning tackle. How I fish depends a lot on where we fish [in the Walmart FLW Tour], but that’s looking pretty good for next year."

On the mend, Dudley is confident he’ll be back in full swing next spring. For now, he’s doing most of what the doctor ordered, but has already prescribed some therapy of his own:

"I think I’m going to have to sneak in a little fishing with a spinning outfit before too long."