I like to stay active during the offseason and even though I fish for a living, I really don’t get tired of it. In fact, wintertime is one of my favorite seasons to fish because, in the Deep South where I live, most people are hunting.
I love to hunt, too, but it’s a lot easier to fish with fewer boats on the water. During the offseason, if you can time a cold front coming in and hit it just right, you can have some spectacular days on the water. I love taking advantage of those days if I can hit them just right.
This year, I’ll be using my 18-foot Ranger 188 with a 115 Mercury a lot. I recently added new Garmin ECHOMAP units for side-scanning and structure-scanning
This year, I plan on spending a good bit of time in that boat with my 11-year-old nephew Cooper. He is all about fishing; he’s always either on YouTube watching fishing, or he’s fishing at a pond.
We try to fish a couple of tournaments every offseason, but I’m going to try to spend more time this year training him and coaching him so someday soon, he can go out on the boat by himself. I want to teach him things like how to run the trolling motor and, of course, boating safety — especially when you’re by yourself.
Cooper’s like a sponge, he absorbs instruction so quickly. That’s encouraging, because next spring when I hit the road again, he won’t need me here to coach him along. Next year, he’s going to get involved in Junior High fishing, so I’m going to help him along this year as much as I can.
I’m a big proponent of grooming the next generation, but I try not to look at this as me being a pro angler — he’s my nephew, and I’m his uncle. We’re a close family, so spending time with my nephew is important.
I’ll definitely enjoy fishing with Cooper, but my goal is to get him to a point where I can put him on the trolling motor, sit down and analyze his performance. I want him to feel comfortable operating the trolling motor and reading the electronics, but of course, I’ll be offering him insight and encouragement along the way.
As a pro angler, it’s hard to turn off that competitive nature. I know that sometimes when Cooper and I go fishing, I tend to take it seriously like I do when I’m in an Elite tournament. I want to figure them out and get a bite, but the main thing for me is to just be patient with my nephew. Being an uncle who’s trying to help him do good, you can push too quickly, and I want to avoid that.
I think that being patient with my nephew will go a long way in helping him develop patience. For example, where we fish on the Tombigbee River, it’s tough, muddy river fishing, and it’s not easy to get many bites a day. A lot of times, he gets impatient; he’ll make four or five casts with a bait and he’s ready to change.
I try to work with him on this and explain that it’s not always the bait. It’s just something you have to grind out.
The bottom line for all of this is to create good memories with my nephew. If he wants to fish, he can fish; if he wants to play ball, he can play ball. I don’t want to push him to do anything.
As long as he’s having a good time doing whatever he’s doing, that’s the most important thing.