I want to talk about kids this month. Specifically, I want to talk about some amazing kids who have put down cell phones and the iPads/iPods and picked up fishing poles.
As all you regular readers of this column know, I am associated with the Magnolia Crappie Club. And, while MCC has always had some participation from a few kids in past years, this tournament season has brought a record number of youngsters into our ranks.
And, I think that’s great.
How much more wholesome, family-oriented, outdoorsy activity can Junior be involved in than being off on a fishing trip with Pop and/or Grand Pop?
I can’t help but recall my own childhood over half a century ago in rural Northeast Mississippi.
My Papaw Vance was a giant to me — a kind-hearted, soft-spoken giant, but a giant, nonetheless. He was a big man, by my recollection, who had only one arm. He lost his left arm in a sawmill accident decades before I was born.
Papaw loved to fish. He never learned to drive a car, so we walked everywhere we went. At a very early age I was toting the cane poles or the worm bucket to the lake and a stringer full of “strawberry” bream or catfish back to the house.
You folks in Northeast Mississippi know what a “strawberry” bream is, don’t you? Folks down here in Central Mississippi call them chinquapins.
Shoot, I recall some of the lakes and creeks we fished, and they were miles from our house. Every now and then we’d get lucky and someone would give us a ride — that’s if we were walking via a road. Often we took the shortcut through the woods or pastures, and hopping on the back of a cotton or hay wagon (and, yes, those wagons were pulled by a team of mules — man, I’m old) was not an option.
Anyway, my point is that, from personal experience, one of the best things you can do for your children today is introduce them to the outdoors, and fishing is one great way to do it.
All you fishermen had someone carry you on your first fishing trip. I’m sure you have memories that are as fond as mine of time spent in the outdoors with your family.
Sadly, today some kids never get to experience the thrill of catching the big one with a little help from Papaw or Dad. And, those damned phones and video devices don’t make it easy, either. Partner, put the dadgum phone down and pick up a rod and reel.
A few tournament seasons ago MCC adopted our “kids, too” rule.
I remember one of our members who was already fishing most tournaments with his 10 year-old son came to me and asked if he could also take his 7 year-old son. My immediate reaction was, “God bless you, friend. If you want to complicate your day even more by putting one more little boy in the boat with you on T-day, have at it.”
I don’t recall where they finished that tournament, but that wasn’t the important part. The lesson we all learned was that this was a good thing, and this family had a great time fishing together in the tournament.
With a couple of refinements along the way, our official “kids rule” now reads that the maximum number of anglers in a boat on T-day is three and that one of those three competitors must be school age or younger.
And, we limit the number of poles a team can use at any one time to six, regardless of the number of team members in the boat. So, even a “team” that is made up of a solo competitor can still have the same number of poles in play as a team with two or three competitors.
We further encourage kids to become active in our fishing club by not charging membership fees to anyone under the age of 18.
And, the result this tournament season has been really outstanding. By my count we’ve had at least 15 kids fish their first tournament with us, plus the two or three veteran kids who never miss and have been members of MCC for a few years.
Put another way, MCC has had 56 different teams compete through four tournaments in our 2014-15 season, and at least 17 of those teams have had at least one youth fisherman involved.
You know how some fishing tournaments have a special “kids only” scenario for an hour or two? It’s usually held in a roped off area where kids can try to catch a penned-up fish or two. Hey that’s fine. I’m glad other fishing organizations are involving kids, too.
But at MCC tournaments we do it a little differently. Our kids are in the boat from the get-go and participate in the day-long tournament activities all the way through the 3 p.m. weigh-in.
And, you know what? I haven’t seen one kid complaining or whining or texting.
Kids, these days! Seems that some of them enjoy catching ’em as big as they grow as much as I do.