On Fathers and Fishing
The water is where many magical memories of fathers and fishing happen. In the realm of professional bass fishing, many pros can immediately point to some of their favorite memories of being with their fathers on the water. With Father's Day approaching, we asked BASS Elite Series pros Bobby Lane, Josh Bertrand, Ott Defoe and Bradley Roy to provide their fondest memories of fishing with their fathers and here are the stories we received.
Bobby Lane's "big clump of 'disappointment'"
I was probably about 12 years old when I got my first true baitcaster rod and reel. After I got it, Dad and I planned a special trip to Kissimmee so I could use it for the first time. Topwater lures were all we threw back then – period. We didn't know about flipping or punching or any of that stuff.
So I tied on a Devil's Horse on my brand new baitcaster and I'm at that point where I want to prove to Dad that I can handle this new baitcaster. He starts testing me a little bit, telling me to throw into some small holes in the vegetation – maybe 2-foot by 2-foot holes. He points to one little hole way back in some thick grass and says, "see if you can hit that one." So I fling a cast out there and it's a dead ringer, it lands perfectly in this little open hole in the weeds. I was still kind of basking in the glow of my casting perfection when an enormous explosion just flushes my topwater. I set the hook and I've got her and it's a giant – I mean a giant. Well, she heads straight into all that thick grass and hydrilla and completely bogs down and quits fighting. I just bust out into tears because I'm totally convinced the fish is gone. And Dad is yelling excitedly, "Keep reeling! Don't stop! Keep reeling." So I keep tugging and finally this big wad breaks free and I'm reeling it towards the boat, but it has no fight whatsoever – it's just a giant wad of lifeless grass. I stop reeling and start crying again because I just know it's a big clump of disappointment on the end of the line.
But Dad is grabbing the net and still coaching me saying, "Don't stop reeling until you get it all the way to the boat!"
Dad leans out and nets this giant clump of weeds. And I'm starting to think he has lost his mind. Why is Dad netting weeds? He lays the net down in the bottom of the boat with all those weeds in it and smiles as big as a dad can smile and says, "Look at what you just caught."
Suddenly the whole clump of weeds moved and the big white belly of a 10-pound bass was exposed – I will never forget that moment as long as I live. To this day, when I get a big bass bogged up in thick vegetation and I go to dig it out, when I finally see it reminds me of that extremely special moment with my dad.
A dad netting a big fish for his son or daughter is a special rite of passage in the fishing world. Josh Bertrand can relate to such an indelible moment as well...
The bass fishing bug bit me when I was about 11 or 12 years old. Up until then I was into traditional sports, but when I discovered bass fishing all of that came to a halt. Dad bought an aluminum boat and instead of going to ball games, we started going to the lake every weekend to learn how to bass fish.
During the week, I would read magazines and books about catching bass on artificial lures and we would watch fishing shows to learn as much as we could together. On the weekends my dad would take my brother and me to the lake to try out what we had learned. We did this for about a year with very little results. We made countless trips to Saguaro Lake and really didn't catch very much. After a season of fishing on the weekends, we had caught maybe five small bass total.
At the end of that year, we decided to make one last trip to the lake. Dad took us to the store and to pick out a new lure before the weekend fishing trip. I remember picking out a baby bass top water bait and to this day I have no idea why I did that. I had just started using a baitcaster and really did not know how to use a walking bait. Plus it was late November and turning cold, not traditional topwater time by any means. But I spooled my baitcaster with 15-pound Trilene Big Game monofilament and tied that new Spook on.
The next day was cold and blustery. A big cold front had just past through and the air temperature was in the 40's – hardly the time for a topwater! But we were so green and I didn't know any better. I was just kind of twitching it along on the surface, trying to make it walk and suddenly it disappeared into what looked like a whirlpool. I just kind of held on and fought the fish the best I could. Dad grabbed up this old, ratty net we had stored in the boat and got it ready. When the fish came to the side of the boat, he scooped it up, heaved into the boat and there was this moment of silence where we all just stared at this gargantuan fish in total disbelief. It was so big, we didn't even know what it was! We were all completely stunned. After the shock wore off, we realized it was indeed a big largemouth bass – it weighed 12 pounds – and is still the biggest bass I have ever caught in my life. Having my dad and brother there as we just stared in awe at that beast is something I will never forget.
Big bass certainly carry big memories, but as Ott Defoe recounts, sometimes you never have to catch a single bass to have the memory of a lifetime fishing with Dad...
Dad and I fished our first tournament together when I was nine years old. It was a big team tournament on Lake Cherokee in August. That morning I can remember floating around at takeoff in awe of the big-time bass boats and all the fancy gear those guys had. We were bouncing around out there in our little boat with a couple spinning outfits and a sack full of sandwiches for lunch. We might have been a little outgunned – but I didn't care; I was in a big-time tournament with my dad and that's all that mattered to me. We had a great time tooling up and down the lake trying different spots. We fished all day and never caught a bass – not even a short a fish. But again, I didn't care.
We came back to weigh-in empty-handed and the emcee brought us up on stage anyway and talked us up. I don't even remember what he said, but it was a big deal to me to be up there with my dad.
I just assumed that since we didn't catch any fish, no one else would have much either. Then these guys start rolling in there with 12 pounds, then 14 pounds, then 15 pounds and that's when I first became intrigued with how those guys could catch those fish on a day when I thought no fish were biting. That really sparked my interest in being able to catch bass in all conditions.
That one tournament with my dad is really what started it all for me and to this day, when I smell outboard exhaust early in the morning or hear a tournament emcee belting out weights on a loudspeaker in the distance, I'm instantly taken back to that special day with my dad.
Bradley Roy has numerous memories about fishing with his dad, but he notes the one thing they all had in common...
When I think back on Dad and me fishing together when I was a kid, the thing that stands out the most was how much confidence and faith he had in me, even when I was only nine or 10 years old.
I can remember the first time he let me put the boat on the trailer: he just said, "Here you go, you know what to do, I'll go get the truck."
Here I am, 10 years old, and he leaves me with his $50,000 boat to put on the trailer. It proved to me at an early age how much complete trust and unquestioned faith he had in me. Or the first time he told me to come up and take the trolling motor and fish wherever I wanted to go. There were never any criticisms as I was doing this stuff, either. If I needed a little guidance on something I was doing wrong, he would simply offer a suggestion. He had the confidence and the patience to let me make my own mistakes and learn from them. When he took me fishing, it wasn't about a set agenda – going to this one specific spot and fishing in this exact manner. We would go out there and he would let me try different lures and explore water and do my own thing without running the show. And now that I've grown older, I can't really explain how much that has meant to me and how it has made me, not only a better fisherman, but a better person.
On this Father's Day, here is a special thanks to Robert Lane, Mike Bertrand, Bud Defoe, Anthony Roy and all the other fathers who take their kids fishing, making them better anglers and better people.