DEL RIO, Texas — The fourth annual Kurt Dove’s Pro Bass Youth Camp took place on Lake Amistad in Del Rio, Texas, June 23-27. For five days, 24 youth anglers between the ages of 11 and 18 honed their bass fishing skills and learned from some of the best professional anglers and guides in the business through one-on-one instruction and on-the-water lessons.
Kurt Dove, who has guided professionally for more than a decade and is currently competing in his sixth season on the Bassmaster Elite Series, first conceptualized the camp during a guide trip with his friend Chase Kemp, who runs the Donald R. Kemp Youth Hunting Club in Las Cruses, N.M.
“I played a lot of basketball and really had a passion for the sport when I was growing up,” explained Dove. “I remember getting really pumped up about going to basketball camp for a week every summer. Over the years of guiding and fishing tournaments, I realized that there was a whole group of kids out there who had a huge passion for bass fishing, but there really wasn’t a ‘summer camp’ experience for them to be a part of.
“I thought that it would be really cool to create a week-long camp that was a nonstop bass fishing bonanza that really entrenched kids in the sport of bass fishing and gave them knowledge so that they could go out and have more fun catching bass.”
Dove partnered with the Donald R. Kemp Youth Hunting Club, and the first Kurt Dove’s Pro Bass Youth Camp was held on Lake Amistad in 2012. The camp had humble beginnings, consisting of just 10 campers and five instructors the first year.
This year, campers learned from an all-star cast of 12 instructors that included 1998 Bassmaster Classic champion Denny Brauer, Bassmaster Elite Series champion and three-time Toyota Texas Bass Classic champion Keith Combs, Bass Fishing Hall Of Fame inductee Harold Allen, Bassmaster Open champion Dave Mansue, and Elite Series pros Kurt Dove and Cliff Crochet. Other instructors included professional guides and tournament anglers T.R. Andreas, Olin Jensen, Frank Ramsey, Daniel Howard, collegiate angler Nicholas DiCamillo and Matt Pangrac from the bass fishing media.
The camp is designed to be much more than an introductory course to bass fishing. The first three mornings, campers were paired with a different instructor and spent seven hours on Lake Amistad, fishing side-by-side and fine-tuning specific techniques with some of the best in the business. Campers had the opportunity to fish jigs with Denny Brauer, use electronics to find offshore schools of bass with Keith Combs, drop shot with Kurt Dove, flip heavy grass with Cliff Crochet and worm fish with Harold Allen.
Denny Brauer, who lives in Del Rio, has been a part of the camp since its inception.
“What amazes me most is how much better all the campers have gotten as a whole from the first year to this year,” Brauer explained. “All the campers are incredibly appreciative, and it’s just a high class group of kids and people involved. It’s refreshing to work with kids who are serious about fishing and really want to improve and excel.”
Following each day of fishing and instruction on the water, the campers took part in classroom style seminars that were conducted by the instructors on topics that ranged from selecting the right crankbait to public speaking tips. Each evening concluded with time allotted for lure making and tackle prep, as well as a casting accuracy competition.
The week was the perfect summer getaway for campers like Cap Massey, who lives more than two hours away from the closest bass lake in his home in New Mexico. Massey said that leading up to the camp, he spent hours watching fishing tournaments on television and researching techniques on YouTube.
“The best part was that I actually got to go out and practice and test the things that I’ve studied at home,” he explained. “I knew all about drop shotting because I’d watched a lot of videos about it, but I’d never actually caught a fish using the technique until I got on the water with Kurt Dove. It was just awesome.”
The camp concluded on Saturday with a tournament on Lake Amistad where a total of $3,500 in scholarship money was on the line for the Top 3 finishers.
Austin Taylor won the tournament and a $1,500 scholarship with a three-bass limit weighing 5.32 pounds. Sam Saxton finished in second place and earned a $1,000 scholarship, and Hunter Muncrief earned a $1,000 scholarship for his third-place finish.
“I’m impressed at how well the majority of the kids understand what’s happening on the water,” said Keith Combs. “It’s good to see youth at an early age who are interested in putting a pattern together and really analyze why and where they caught fish.”
The Most Improved Camper award went to Brady Harp, and Chase Maddox earned the Senior Achievement Award and the $500 Steve Main Memorial Scholarship.
Dove is proud of the fact that campers who have attended the camp in past years have gone on to excel in tournaments like the Costa Bassmaster High School National Championship presented by TNT Fireworks, TBF High School Fishing World Final and other state and regional tournaments.
“There’s nothing better than getting to see your passion passed on to another generation,” stated Dove. “Over the course of the camp week, you can actually see the campers improve and grow as anglers.”