As a father, I don’t think there’s anything more rewarding than watching your kid excel in their favorite sport — especially when that sport is your profession.
I know that’s the case for my friend and fellow Florida Bassmaster Elite Series pro Cliff Prince. His 12-year-old son, Syler, just won the FLW Junior World Cup Championship on Lake Wateree in South Carolina.
Competing against five other regional champs, Syler scored four weighable bass in the final round for a total of nearly 9 pounds — besting his next closest competitor by more than 5 pounds. But according to Syler, that wasn’t the hardest part; it was getting there that was the challenge.
From the beginning
Last spring, Sy began his trek to the championship by entering a series of local events, all sanctioned by a division of The Bass Federation (TBF) based in northeast Florida. They hosted numerous qualifiers, all of which were open to 11- to 15-year-old kids from around the state.
Although Sy learned of the series through a classmate, it was actually his mom, Kelley Prince, who started it all.
Serving as an assistant principle at a local middle school, Kelley was asked to help develop fishing programs for the kids in their area. Accepting the challenge, she worked aggressively with the Putnam County School Board to achieve that goal. And though a program was eventually established, it was restricted to students at the high school level. That left young Syler on the outside looking in.
It wasn’t until later that he learned of the TBF Juniors program, which targets younger participants. That’s when Syler got his chance.
Tagged the Bass Capitol Junior Bassmasters, the Palatka, Florida-based club has deep roots to some very accomplished mentors. Among them are Manuel Spencer, Wayne Black and Bobby Ditto — all local heroes in competitive bass fishing.
In fact, Syler’s dad, Cliff, was mentored by Manuel Spencer — a former B.A.S.S. Invitational champion and Bassmaster Classic qualifier. If he were still alive today, it’s certain Manuel would be proud of the legacy he left behind.