The future of bass fishing and the growth and continuation of a sport we all love lies in the hands of the youth today. While many young people are spending their days sitting motionless in their rooms, staring at a screen with all their attention on the most popular video game of the time, Bryant has his sights set on becoming a bass angler.
I met Bryant and his dad Charlie after my 12th-place finish on Championship Saturday for the Central Open on Sam Rayburn. I was both shocked and honored when Bryant asked for my autograph. He was the first person to request my autograph, so it was hard to tell who was more excited at that moment, him or me.
I could see something in Bryant; I knew he was special. He wasn't just a kid wanting autographs, he was a kid who seemed to have the love of fishing running through his veins. So, before heading out for a long drive back to Wisconsin, I spent some time getting to know Bryant and his dad. In order to get Bryant on the water, his dad Charlie sold their pontoon boat to purchase a bass boat so they could both spend time together learning the sport of bass fishing.
I think it is important for me, as an angler trying to pursue my career, to take time to encourage, mentor and get the young people today excited about bass fishing. Charlie had asked if I would be fishing the Open on Lewisville and expressed interest in making the five-hour drive to attend a weigh-in. So, my wife and I invited them to attend and spend some time with us. If you happened to see me on stage during Day 2 weigh-in, and wondered who the young man with me was, it was Bryant.
It may have been Bryant's first time walking across a tournament stage, but do not expect it to be his last. Although he only recently turned 10 years old, Bryant is already planning his future. With junior high only two years away, he is anxious to become part of his school's bass fishing team.
Engaging with and educating the younger generation about bass fishing and conservation is so important. I encourage all anglers to spend some time with young fans or anglers in an effort to build the future of B.A.S.S.