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Help a young person learn their way around the lake

Mentors are important people. Most of us, at some point in time, have had one. These older, wiser, more experienced individuals voluntarily choose to help us in endeavors that are passionate to us. Without them, we may have given up on a dream. The impact they can have is immense.

These same mentors are so valuable at bringing “new blood” into these activities. Hunting and fishing are no different. Without young people finding an interest in the sports that we enjoy, those sports could eventually fade into oblivion.

I am quite ecstatic to report though that bass fishing is gaining a strong foothold in our high school and college aged youth throughout the nation. In case you were not aware, most every high school in the surrounding area now has a bass club.

The largest bass fishing organization, B.A.S.S., has also eagerly jumped on board. The Bass Anglers Sportsman’s Society has long been the leader in national and regional tournaments. They now have a viable and active collegiate level tournament series as well. Not only do rival schools battle it out on the gridiron, they can now match wits on the water.

These clubs talk fishing, practice fishing and even compete in local tournaments to test their new knowledge and skills that they have acquired. What started as a small grassroots movement several years ago has turned into a strong following.

These eager students are good for the sport in many ways. They encourage conservation and sustainable practices, they purchase equipment and stimulate the fishing industry and in-turn will pass their knowledge to their children someday.

These high school students need your help though. Without mentors, they are not able to learn new things and expand their passion for the sport. I always like to compare fishing to a toolbox. A new angler to the sport may have only a couple of tools in their box. They are limited in the success they can have because they might not have the right tool for the job.

A more seasoned angler’s toolbox has many more choices. Conditions change all the time. A veteran to the bass world knows how to put down one tool and grab another when necessary. The only way to learn these skills is through trial and error, and the passing of knowledge from one generation to the next.

The best part about mentoring these young anglers is that they are willing and ready to listen to what you have to say. They are sponges trying to figure out ways to put more fish in the boat. The other benefit is, we just might learn something from them we haven’t tried either.

As mentors, there is another critical way in which we can help these youth fishermen. They need access to boats. Not all these individuals have a boat which they can use. This is not only challenging for a fun day on the water, but it’s almost impossible to host a small tournament without boats.

Most of the local bass clubs at area high schools that I am aware of use adults as drivers on tournament days. Many of the events in our area take place on the Des Plaines River. The anglers then spread out throughout the river systems — some heading east towards Joliet, while others point their boats west and head towards the Illinois or Kankakee Rivers.

If you think that you might be interested in helping out by providing a boat and mentoring these kids, contact your local high school. Just ask the office personal to speak to the faculty member in charge of the bass club. They can put you in touch with the right person.

This is a great way that we can give back to the sport. Most of us would not be as passionate about fishing if it weren’t for someone helping us along the way. Even if you can only give up one day during the year to spend it on the water with a high school angler, that one day will be meaningful to both you and the young man or woman who needs your help. Be a fishing mentor!

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