Rekindling my love for tournament fishing

I’m home after finishing 79th in the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament at Lake Murray. It was my worst showing in years. What’s especially frustrating is Lake Murray is one of my favorite lakes to fish.

I don’t like dwelling on bad tournaments, because I know they’re inevitable. You’re just not going to catch them every time.

Thankfully, I don’t have time to dwell on the poor finish. I’ll be taking my 11-year-old son Kei to compete in his first Bassmaster Junior Series tournament the weekend following my Murray misstep. His tournament takes place at Sam Rayburn Reservoir.

I can’t think of a better way to extinguish my blues and rekindle my love for tournament fishing than participating in Kei’s event. He’s about the same age I was when my uncle Anthony started me fishing tournaments. Kei’s tournament reminds me of the joy and excitement that got me hooked on this sport.

He’s just now getting into the tournament-fishing scene. His first love is baseball. I’m not forcing him to fish tournaments. As parents, we need to support them in whatever they truly want to do.

Kei participates in a baseball tournament almost every weekend from March to June. He just happened to have a free weekend during the Sam Rayburn tournament, so I signed him up. He will be fishing with his friend and tournament partner Bennett Bullard.

This won’t be their first tournament together. They fish a couple of trails near home in Arkansas and won angler of the year in one of them. They know what they’re doing and are picking it up quickly.

The tournament on Rayburn will let them experience a larger event with a lot more boats and tougher competition. It should open their eyes to what a big time tournament is and expose them to the ups and downs of this sport.

It will also give them more experience fishing a lake they’re not familiar with. And, this event gives them an opportunity to qualify for Bassmaster’s 2024 Junior National Championship on July 26-27 at Lake Chickamauga.

I’ll be their boat captain at Sam Rayburn. I can drive them to their fishing spots during the tournament and give them advice, but they have to catch their own bass without my help. Boat captains are allowed to fish on practice days. This will give the boys an opportunity to watch how I find bass and see what it takes to make decisions that lead to success.

Both boys fish well, but they do some things better than others. I’ll be looking for situations that play to their strengths. Technology is in their wheelhouse, so they’re both good at seeing bass on forward-facing sonar and casting to them. They’re also good with crankbaits, vibrating jigs, jerkbaits and topwater baits.

It will be a postspawn event, so there should be a mix of topwater and offshore fishing going on. We should be able to get a couple of patterns nailed down.

My No. 1 goal is for them to have a good time and not fish with an Elite Series mindset where catching bass is do-or-die. I want them to catch bass, have fun and learn how to be better anglers.

You never know, this experience may be the first step to becoming a high school angler, a college angler and maybe a pro angler one day.

I also want the boys to see that just because I had a bad tournament I’m not going to stay down. They need to know there are lessons to be learned from bad tournaments, bad days and bad weeks, in general. Leaning how to bounce back from setbacks makes us better anglers and human beings.