GUNTERSVILLE, Ala.— Troy Jens had the same aspirations as many competitive bass anglers of becoming a touring pro, but he found a better calling for his passion of the sport.
The Alabama guide competed in Bassmaster Opens for three years, in which he recorded one Top 10 finish (eighth place at the 2002 Alabama Bassmaster Southern Open on Pickwick Lake). However, Jens left the tournament trail to guide full time on Lake Guntersville and devote more time to fishing with chronically ill and troubled children.
"My guiding basically supports my work in kids ministry," said Jens, who is on the board of directors for the United Special Sportsmen Alliance (www.childswish.com). "The organization is dedicated to granting wishes for hunting and fishing to children who are chronically or seriously ill. We teach them how to fish, get them in the outdoors and do a lot of hunting with them. Regardless of the nature of their illness or disability, we work with them."
After graduating from high school, Jens worked with the Alabama State Department of Mental Health and is now a counselor for kids who have endured abuse or some sort of emotional trauma. His therapy for these kids is to take them out in his bass boat for a day of fishing.
"Fishing is something new to them, and there is a huge interest in it," said Jens. "A lot of people don't realize how many exciting aspects there are to fishing, such as driving a high-speed boat and fishing for bass tournament-style."
While psychiatrists use the couch to get their patients to talk about their problems, Jens uses his bass boat to get his kids to talk.
"It has progressed to the point where I am able to get them out fishing and get them to open up. If they've got issues or troubles, this is a great place to talk," Jens disclosed. "A lot of times they will really open up out on the boat. I'll get kids who have had a lot of trouble in their lives and never had any trust or hope or opportunity, so I'll get them to catch some fish.
Once they open up and talk, I've got a door to maybe help them with some of the issues they are dealing with."
The guide/counselor works mostly with troubled 9- to 14-year-olds whom he takes out fishing one to two days a week.