Family has always been important to me, and so has the outdoors. I have my grandfather to thank for my love of the outdoors because my dad didn't fish. But that doesn't mean my father didn't help me get into the outdoors. In fact, he contributed more than anyone. He gave me his time, money and love.
By his love, I mean he spent time fishing with me because he knew how much I loved it. To me, him doing something he didn't care for just to be with me is a show of love of the highest degree. He went out of his way to give me the opportunity to fish. He even went and bought a lake house in east Texas and a 15 1/2-foot boat with a 33-horsepower motor. That was a hot rig back in the day, and for a 12- or 13-year-old kid to have that, that's really something else. There is no way I can thank him enough for what he's given me.
As I said, my grandfather was the one who really got me started in fishing. My earliest fishing memories are of him and me with cane poles and minnows when we were fishing for crappie, or worms when we were catching bluegill. For bass, he had one lure and one lure only — a Heddon Tiny Chugger. He threw it in August and he threw it in January, and I saw him catch fish in August and I saw him catch fish in January.
When I got a little older, I started getting Bassmaster Magazine. I'd read about all these plastic worms guys were using, and when I'd ask him about them, he'd say, "That's too slow to catch a bass." He stuck with that Tiny Chugger his whole life.
Back then, success on the water was important, but not near as important as being with him. I'm sorry none of my kids were able to meet him, because he was really special, but when we all get to Heaven, we can meet and tell fishing stories.
As a lot of you know, my son Alton Jr. — or "Little Alton" — is an up-and-coming fisherman. From a father's perspective, he's quite the fishing buddy, too.
Finding a good fishing buddy is hard, and to have your son as your best fishing buddy is really special. He's just as intense as I am.
When we get to a camp site for an event, he won't even stick around to unpack. The first thing we hear is a compartment under the RV opening, the one with his tacklebox and rod. He's gone in a flash, but we always know where to find him. He reminds me of myself at that age. It's a shame we can't fish together anymore because of a tournament rule, but we still find time to hang around. My greatest memories are of our grand adventures.
We used to take a long weekend and go off traveling — just the two of us — and fish. We'd go down to Mexico — to Falcon Lake — or up north smallmouth fishing. It was him and me and rods and reels. Those are memories I'll carry with me the rest of my life.
The father-and-son bond is a special one to begin with, but when you can enjoy the outdoors with your son, it's even more special. It's a hard feeling to explain.