Life is all about making memories. Some of the best memories I have are fishing with my dad. He took me fishing all the time when I was little. Some of my earliest memories are catching bluegill with my dad and older brother on the banks of Norris Lake. Dad says I caught my first fish before age 2, and that watching me reel in that first fish was one of the greatest experiences of his life. I do not have kids, but I can imagine the joy of sharing the love of a pastime like fishing with them. I am very lucky to have a great father who loved to spend time with me and take me fishing when I was young. I am blessed that I can still go fishing with him and we are still making memories together on the water.
A couple weeks ago, I took a young man fishing, and I want to share his inspiring story about his father. Jake Harmon (age 21), from Tazewell, TN, is holding on to the great memories that he has fishing with his father. His time with his father was cut short on April 20, 2013. Tragically, his father, Keith, suffered a heart attack while fishing a BFL on South Holston Lake, and passed away.
Keith Harmon was an avid tournament bass fisherman. He won the 2001 BASS Nation Tennessee Championship, and competed in BFL’s and club tournaments for many years. He took his boys, Jake and Brandon, every chance he could. They fished all over Tennessee, and took trips to the Red River and Lake Toho. He instilled the love of tournament-fishing in them. Jake and Brandon used to travel with Keith to tournaments before they were old enough to compete, and as they got older teamed up with him.
As Jake and I fished, I asked him about his dad. He told me that his dad was a soft-spoken guy that would get excited when he talked to people about fishing. He said that he was a very sincere man that helped people who were going through hard times. Three years ago, Keith’s youngest son, Andy, died in a car accident at age 17. Jake said that through that tragedy, his dad found strength in God and was able to encourage other people who were going through the similar things. His dad had learned to not take any day for granted and to live life to the fullest.
When I asked Jake how he has been dealing with the loss of his father, he struggled to put it into words. He told me that he and his brother find peace on the water just fishing. That is where he is happiest and feels closest to his dad. I could tell that all the wonderful memories of fishing with his dad came back as he fished. Jake smiled as he thought about them. He said that he would crack up at how serious his dad was about fishing. Jake said that Keith would freak out when they were trying to get a fish in the net, screaming, “Jake, keep her down!” or “Don’t let her jump!” One of Jake’s favorite memories was when he and his dad were fishing a night tournament. His dad was up front sitting on the pedestal seat, and had recently commented about the screws that connected the seat to the floor were a little loose and needed to be tighten up. Minutes later, Keith got a bite, leaned back to set the hook, the screws came out of the floor, the seat broke, and he flipped over backwards straight into the lake. “It was in the middle of the night and after Dad got back in the boat, he was aggravated and freezing so we left,” laughed Jake.
Its experiences like those that Jake will never forget. I’m sure that when he is missing his dad, he will think back to them and remember the fun times. We all have good memories and that is what life is all about. Keith Harmon lived a good life. He cherished life and didn’t take any day for granted. He loved God, had a great family, helped many people, and caught a bunch of bass along the way. Keith caught a 4 lb. smallmouth minutes before he died during that final tournament. It gives his family peace knowing that he died doing what he loved.