As soon as I heard the request, I volunteered. SiteOne, the title sponsor of the second Bassmaster Elite Series event of 2022 on the Harris Chain of Lakes, needed several boats to host anglers for a company tournament to be held at a lake close to tournament waters.
I would’ve been happy to help anyway, but this event would include a father/son team. I knew I was the man for the job. Certainly, all of my fellow Elites did a great job hosting their guests, but with over a decade of guiding experience, I felt like I was best-suited for these particular anglers.
When I met my anglers, I found the 4-year-old son super friendly and eager to go. He was a ball full of energy and even brought his own lures.
Over the years, I’ve had a lot of young guys in my boat, so this was a good fit. I wanted to make sure that I met these anglers’ needs so that they had a fun day.
When it comes to fishing with kids and parents, my philosophy is simple — I focus on working with the young angler. As is often the case, dad was experienced. I stationed him on the back of the boat with a wacky worm while his son and I fished off the front.
We kept it simple and did some bed fishing. That’s usually a very visual technique, so my young partner got to see the fish and help me reel in each fish and lift it into the boat.
At the weigh-ins, there was a running joke. Many of our competitors asked if we had caught a 10-pounder because they could hear us yelling every time we caught a fish.
I think our biggest fish was about 4 pounds, but we had a great time, enjoyed some good laughs and made some memories. Dad caught a few too, and we made sure we kept it interactive for the son. He even got to release some of the fish.
I had prepped both of my anglers about what to expect at the weigh-ins, and probably the coolest moment was when we walked up on stage and talked with Bassmaster Emcee Dave Mercer. The 4-year-old got to say “G-g-g-g-g-giant bass!”
Moments like that are fun for everyone, but I always try to make sure the fishing day is fun start-to-finish. I want to explain as much as I can to young anglers without boring them, but at that age, it’s more about the experience.
You honestly don’t know what they’re going to retain and learn from the day, so my goal was just to make sure it was a fun day that he’d talk about and remember long after we said goodbye.
The important thing to remember is that this is an impressionable age. All of us professional fishermen can look back and remember a time when we were that age, and whether it was bream fishing with a cork or cat fishing, there was some experience that first led us to our love for fishing and our decision to pursue it professionally.
My takeaways from this event: First, kudos to dad for getting his son involved in the outdoors. Start them early and encourage them to continue learning.
If you’re talking a kid fishing, keep it simple. Keep your trip to a reasonable length (we did four hours) and bring plenty of snacks and beverages.
Lastly, enjoy the experience. With this year’s busy tournament schedule, I’ve had to put my guiding on pause. I’m blessed to have the opportunity to fish the Elites, but days like I spent with a father and his son remind me what I love most about this sport — teaching young anglers and encouraging families to fish together.