This has been a fun week to be a dad, especially a dad that loves the outdoors and is passionate about fishing. Last week I talked about our trip to LaCrosse, Wis. to fish the Mississippi River, the Black River and Lake Onalaska. One of the highlights of the trip for the boys was to launch at Veterans Freedom Park.
No, this boat ramp isn’t some amazing venue. It is just a parking lot and a nice wide ramp. It does have a boat wash station, though; that was quite nice. Anyway, what made this place interesting for my boys was the fact that it was the site of the Bassmaster Elite series just a few weeks ago in June.
The Elite series is B.A.S.S.’s top-notch tournament trail that sports some of the best bass anglers in the world. The B.A.S.S. Elites are to the world of bass fishing what the MLB is to baseball or the NFL to football. These anglers have to qualify to be here. They earn their stripes by participating in open tournaments and racking up enough points to be invited to the big time. Competitive fishing is growing by leaps and bounds at all levels and a lot of this is due to the success of the pros on the Elite series.
The other reason my boys were excited to fish at this particular location is because I had filmed four television shows from this locale. In fact, on the way to Wisconsin, Cody watched all of these episodes on the DVD player again. He was pumped, to say the least.
After this trip, both boys have spent time watching episodes of the Bassmasters on Youtube. They saw all the glitz, the glamour, the logo-laden shirts and boats. They saw the excitement of cameras and crowds as anglers hold up fish to cheering and adoring fans. It is quite intoxicating.
Then came Thursday evening. It wasn’t enough that we just spent the last three days fishing, Cody wanted to hit our home lake. He even talked me into fishing Thursday morning as well. OK, he didn’t really have to work too hard at talking me into it.
We hooked up the rods for some extreme finesse fishing due to the heat and clear skies. I sported a drop shot rig and Cody was set on using his infamous Bungee Jumper setup. Within sight of the boat launch, we had already boated four nice fish.
On one of Cody’s “Got one” shouts, I turned to watch him. The next thing I saw made me smile and well up with pride all at the same time. He took that fish, swept it alongside the boat and in one continuous motion swung the fish into the bottom of the boat.
The reason I laughed inside is because he was imitating landing fish the way the pros do. He had soaked up every nuance from those programs and was acting out everything that he had seen. The neat part was he was doing a darn good job of it. His confidence was soaring, his casts were pretty good for an 11-year-old and his ability to manipulate a baitcast reel was impressive.
We fished for another couple of hours and kept catching quality fish. It was an absolute blast. As we were loading up the boat on the trailer for the evening, he looked at me and said, “Man, I felt like a real pro today.”
He absolutely loves baseball, but fishing has got to be a close second. He is always talking about being a pro, competing all across the country and is constantly drilling me with questions about what competitive fishing is, like “What are all those big lakes like?”, “How did I do?”, “What did I think?”, etc. The list of questions was endless.
Mom, being the good mom that she is, was quick to mention the financial pitfalls, the huge entry fees, time away from home, endless travel and the very real possibility that you will go broke. He listened, or at least pretended that he did.
I think it might be too late though. This boy has got the bass fever bad. I think it might be incurable and the full effects are yet to be seen. I couldn’t be prouder.