Fishing with a president

A couple weeks ago, I told you about an upcoming trip my son and I would make to former President George W Bush’s ranch. Now I’d like to tell you how that special honor surpassed my expectations.

For starters, I’ll say that I’m impressed with the way President Bush lives his life. He’s not just taking time off and taking it easy; he stays active with a range of involvements from personal hobbies to benevolent service. I’ll share a little more on that in a moment, but let me tell you about our day of fishing. 

President Bush’s 1,600-acre ranch in Crawford, Texas, includes a 15-acre lake that he has sculpted with nice offshore structure, as well as shallow cover. The three of us fished for about three hours on my Skeeter boat, while his Secret Service detail stayed on the bank.

After that, President Bush took us on an ATV tour of his ranch and then showed us around his art studio. He’s taken up painting, and he’s very good at it. Most of President Bush’s work involves outdoor scenery like sweeping Texas landscapes and incredibly detailed cactus paintings.

You can really see his love for the outdoors through his work, but you can see a different type of appreciation through the portraits of wounded warriors that he’s painted. Remember how I told you President Bush stays busy? Well, that evening he hosted a group of wounded warriors for a group mountain bike ride. He has over 100 miles of bike trails on his ranch, so this is one of the ways he stays active and involved in the things that are meaningful to him.

Back to our fishing trip; I’d describe President Bush as a very skilled angler. He’s precise with a baitcaster and, while he’s proficient at a variety of techniques, he’s partial to Texas-rigged plastics.

Little Alton and I threw crankbaits offshore and even though the fish were biting, President Bush stuck with his Texas-rigged 6-inch YUM ribbontail worm. What was interesting was his mastery of the worm swimming technique — it’s kind of a soft plastic alternative to cranking. 

We all caught several fish and Little Alton had the day’s biggest — a 5 1/2-pounder. I lost an estimated 7-pounder at the boat and another big one I never saw.

I probably should’ve caught both of those fish, but I’ll admit I had performance errors because I was a little starstruck. When you’re fishing with a former president of the United States, it’s an overwhelming honor, so I was focused more on him than on my fishing.

I will say that President Bush kept the mood relaxed and comfortable. He’s actually a funny guy. For example, the bass in his lake are healthy, but I suggested that he could grow them even bigger by introducing more food.

I told him that no buffet is too big and he looked at my belly and said, “I can see that!”

Balancing his sense of humor, President Bush also shared a lot of wisdom and inspiration. I paid close attention to his every word and absorbed nuggets of wisdom like this: He told me that he believes when you’re around other people, it’s never by accident. It’s always by divine appointment, so you must do your best to convey a positive message. 

Now, I’m certainly not in the same category as a former president, but as a professional fishermen, we have the ability to impact others. So, if a former president feels convicted to use his notoriety to convey positive thoughts, it’s definitely worth my effort too.

During our time together, I noted that I’ve observed this on his part and President Bush told me he’s very intentional in his interaction with others. Essentially, he said, if you don’t use your platform for good, what’s the point in having that platform at all?