I’ve enjoyed the company of a couple of very special kids this summer. And one of the neatest things about both these kids is that they didn’t use or, in one case, even bring a cell phone with them.
Personally, I find it unbelievable that everywhere you look these days adults and kids alike are glued to their cell phones. Two grown men were sitting in the booth next to me and my wife the other morning at breakfast, and instead of talking to one another they were manipulating in dead silence stuff on their phones.
Pray tell, what is so damned interesting on the face of a damned phone?
But both these wonderful kids were just enjoying being in the boat and on the lake with me catching crappie. No phones allowed, brother.
First I took Hunter Smith of Brandon. Hunter has been fishing with me before; I’ve had him in my boat several times since he was 7 or 8 years old.
Hunter is 11 now. His great-grandfather Jim McKay, a fishing buddy of mine for years, would really be grinning ear to ear if he could see ole Hunter landing one more slab as big as they grow.
Big Jim died on Christmas morning a few Christmases ago. But not before he pointed Hunter down the right path.
There are a couple of things about Hunter I want you to know. One is that, at 11 years old, Hunter’s shoe size is at least two sizes larger than my No. 10s. Big Jim meet Big Hunter. If the thing about a puppy’s paw size predicting his grown size goes for people, Hunter is going to be one big dog.
Another remarkable thing about Hunter is that every answer he gave me for two days included the word “sir.” It was “yes, sir” or “no, sir” every time.
I’m impressed because I can remember the licking my Dad gave me when I was about Hunter’s age because I forgot to say or just didn’t use “sir” when I spoke to him one time. Didn’t repeat that mistake, let me tell you.
Although we didn’t use any of them, Hunter ties fishing flies. Imagine that — an 11-year-old teaching himself to tie fishing flies instead of playing with his phone all dadgum day.
Hunter gave me one of his favorite flies as soon as he got in the truck on our first morning. How neat is that?
We caught good fish both days, and Hunter calls our crankbait-pulling strategy “deep sea crappie fishing.” He loves to sit in the fighting chair on my back deck and crank the fish in.
Hunter already drives the tractor and a four-wheeler on the farm and my boat at the lake. I’m going to have to teach him to back the truck with the boat attached to it the next time we go fishing.
Harlee Brighton Johnson — I call her H.B. — is my 9-year-old granddaughter. She went fishing with me a few days after I took Hunter.
This was H.B.’s first trip in my boat and the first time she’d caught a crappie.
For a first-timer she handled the rod and reel really well. I was impressed.
You could tell she was having the time of her life when we’d get a bite and she’d jump into action. The only thing I had to do was cast the crankbait back in the zone after we landed one.
And when it came time to getting the fish out of the livewell at the end of the day, she jumped at the chance to do it all by herself. None of that little squealing girly stuff from H.B. She was all business and so proud of the fish she’d put in the livewell to begin with.
She needs to learn to whistle. I had a knack of calling up the next bite with my whistling the morning she was in the boat with me. I’d start to whistle a tune, and, BAM, we’d get another bite.
“Papaw, are you whistling for those fish?” she asked.
“You bet, baby,” I told her. “Give it a try.”
Try as hard as she could, H.B. just couldn’t get that whistling down.
By the way, H.B. can swim like a fish. She made the state swim team a couple of seasons ago as a second grader. Now that’s what I’m talking about!
When you take kids fishing — and I truly hope you do — try to do it when the fish are biting. Most children can get bored pretty quickly if there is not some action. And what better way to get your kids involved in the outdoors than catching a few fish?
Wouldn’t you rather see kids doing something outdoorsy than playing on their phones or watching TV all day?
The Magnolia Crappie Club has encouraged tournament participants to include kids on T-days, and it’s working.
MCC allows a third person in the boat during tournament hours, so long as at least one of the competitors is school aged or younger.
I think our youngest competitor so far has been Will Ferguson at 4 years old, and I watched little Will kick my partner’s and my butts at Enid one day pulling cranks. He was steady reeling in fish, and we were struggling to get a bite.
Last season we had 15 different kids fish with us during at least one tournament, and I didn’t hear one complaint or even see one phone with any of the fishing kids.
And, 12-year-old Layne Carpenter of Yazoo City set the new record for the largest crappie ever weighed on T-day by any organization at 3.92 pounds. Now that’s what I’m talking about!
MCC’s 2015-16 season will begin in September. Go to www.magnoliacrappieclub.com to see the tournament schedule.
Hope you’ll join the family fun with MCC this coming season.