Recently I had a chance to spend some time with a young man (14 years old) I met a few years ago at an ICAST show. His name is Nathan, and he is from the St. Louis area of Illinois. He has a drive and passion for the sport that reminds me of when I was his age. Like I did then, he has his mind set on becoming a pro bass angler.
We had a long discussion about high school fishing and youth fishing programs and events. From what I understand, the kids need to come up with their own boats and boat drivers. This is understandable, but it does shut the door on a lot of kids who can't come up with a resource like that.
We then discussed him joining a local bass club as a non-boater for their events — after all, that is how I started. I was shocked to find out that the bass clubs won't allow him to join because he is not old enough. Once again, I understand the dilemma of allowing young adults to join the clubs. However, I can't help but think there is room and a way to allow the younger generation to be a part of the club. How else are we going to nurture their desire to fish competitively and learn from on the water experiences.
Nathan isn't the only young man I have had the time to talk to. I talk to young boys and girls all around the country that all love to fish and want to be pro anglers when they finish school. If we turn them away because they don't have access to a boat or because they are not "old enough" for the club, how are we going to continue to grow the sport of competitive bass fishing?
I look back to when my dad and I went to the Shawnee Mission Bassmasters club here in Kansas City and talked about joining. They took it to a vote on whether I would be allowed in at the age of 14, and luckily they approved it. I can't imagine what would be different today if they have not allowed me into that club. The club was not only the biggest learning process I had in my ascent to becoming a pro angler, but some of my biggest fans and best friends come from my days as a member of that club. For that I am forever grateful to that club, and to club fishing in general. I just ask clubs to take the time to consider the good you can do for our youth by finding ways to include them, not exclude them.
Not to change the subject, but let's talk fishing for a second. Right now, the next few weeks, are in my opinion the toughest time of the year to pattern fish. The fish are scattered all through the lake, from six inches to 20 feet and more. It's the ultimate junk fishing time of year everywhere. My recommendation is to cover a lot of water and don't get to keyed in on a spot, bait or depth range. Keep that in mind when you go fishing over the next few weeks. I guess it's the reason I take this time of year as a break from the water and dove hunt and hang tree stands for the upcoming hunting season.