We all take kids fishing from time to time. It’s special, but not unusual. Some of the kids are just out fishing for the day but others are really into the sport. You can tell the difference almost as soon as they get in the boat. And so it was with Sully Jeter.
I first met him at Lay Lake when I took him out for a few hours of bass fishing. I don’t remember how many we caught that day but I do remember my impressions of the young man. They were positive from the beginning, and in more ways than one.
Sully was polite and well mannered. Youngsters don’t get that way by accident. I knew he had parents who cared and who wanted the best for him. I found out later he goes to school at Briarwood Christian School. What isn’t covered at home is covered at school. It was apparent to me he was a team effort.
At the same time, Sully was eager to learn and had an obvious competitive streak in him. I knew I’d be hearing from or about him again. I did, just before the B.A.S.S. High School Invitational on Wheeler Lake a few days ago. He called for advice. His practice hadn’t gone all that well, and he wanted a little direction. I helped him as best I could by giving him my best information.
Unfortunately, he and teammate Thomas Jennings didn’t catch a lot of fish in the tournament. Their best efforts netted them a couple of bass that weighed just over 2 pounds. Nevertheless, I look back on Sully, and on my relationship with him, with great pride. (It should come as no surprise to any of my readers that struggling to catch a bass is something I can understand — in my head and in my heart.)
What we do at the highest professional level is much different from what’s done at every other level of the sport. We have to catch fish to survive. Most anglers, though, can do quite well just fishing and competing at the recreational, club or semi-pro level. We need to keep that in mind.
This is a sport that depends, more than almost any other I can think of, on grassroots activity. Think about it. You can enjoy a professional baseball or football game but never go to the playground to play a pickup game. In fact, a lot of people do. It’s pure entertainment for them.
I wonder if that’s true with fishing…
How many men and women who don’t fish attend bass tournament weigh-ins? I don’t know for sure, and I could be wrong, but off the top of my head I’d guess that the answer is not very many. We thrive on participation. It’s the foundation of our sport.
Bass fishing needs anglers like Sully and his partner Thomas. If we can keep them in the sport, things will be just fine 10, 20 or 30 years from now. Keep fishing guys. They’re always biting somewhere.