This story was submitted by Strike King Pro Mark Menendez of Paducah, Kentucky. Mark has ammassed career earnings of over $888,000 and is a three-time BASS winner and has finished in the top 10 twenty times.
I can remember the excitement of a fishing trip as a little boy. Tossing and turning in bed until the earliest hours of the morning anticipating the upcoming fishing day. Even as a man, I return to this gleeful state on occasion. This trip, I was able to view all things as a five year old fisherman.
Max and I compete in a couple of open tournaments each year. This weekend was our first opportunity to fish together in a tournament. We made a huge event out of the USA Bassin Youth Firecracker Open. The young fisherman in both of us started five days before the event on tackle. Max had spent hours getting all of his baits in order. New line was placed on our rods. Max even received two new Lew’s Reels for the Adult/Child fishing tournament.
As the two boys pulled out of the driveway for Paris Landing, we waved to mommy and sister. We were making the journey to Fish Tales Lodge to spend the night. I looked in the back seat of my truck to see a suitcase full of toys, Puppy Menendez (Max’s favorite stuffed animal), and our duffel bag full of clothes. It looked as if we may be headed across the country! We were only going to be gone 24 hours.
Little Fishermen and Unexpected Gifts
Fourteen stops later, we pull into the lodge. The real topic of discussion was not fishing. It was about Max getting the opportunity to swim in the pool at the lodge. Max sees the pool as we pull in front of the office. “There it is. There it is,” he screams. He begins to dig for his swim goggles and trunks. Mission accomplished. He will burn off all of this energy and get some sleep. That is what I thought!
Once in the cabin, I am making dinner and sandwiches for the upcoming bass tournament. Max has two million Lego pieces on the table building a giant boat. We talk about fishing and try to go to sleep. We are both excited. The last time I looked at the clock it said 11:38pm. We have to be up in four hours and twenty-two minutes. The alarm goes off. Max flies out of bed to get his clothes, shoes and hat. He hit the floor running. I am moving in slow motion as I do every tournament morning.
We arrive at the marina to pay for our entry and ready Max’s aluminum boat. He said it would bring us luck. This is the same boat in which I won the Bassmaster Elite Series Diamond Drive event a couple of seasons ago. We ease out of the marina with the other bass boats with fathers and sons in the seats. We took off as hard as Max’s 90hp Yamaha would run. I show Max that we are running 43.9 mph. Max yells over the wind on the Yamaha, “We smoked them all Daddy. We have the fastest boat here!” Most of the other boats only had 200 horsepower and up. In that second, the look of anticipation in Max’s eyes said we did have the fastest boat!
The boat settled off plane some fifteen miles later. We idled to a familiar waypoint and started our day. In an instant, shad began to fly out of the water. Five acres of fish were schooling around our boat! This was the biggest school of bass I had ever seen. We caught fish after fish. All of them were line burners, just short of the fifteen inch size limit. Each was a battle of legendary proportion as Max labored to get them in the boat. He manages to get a keeper in the boat on his Uncle Jim’s worm. We high five and slid the bass into the livewell. The action is fast and furious for over an hour. Then, I notice Max is starting to slow down. He passes out in exhaustion from lack of sleep on the back deck of the boat. I get a glimpse of the child, not the tournament fisherman. He had caught 15 bass in the first hour! He just needed a power nap! I continued to fish. I added a second keeper to the well during his nap. The bass continued to school for over two hours. No more keepers made it to the well.
Max stirred as I cranked the outboard to move a quarter mile to a deeper waypoint. He cast a 3/8 oz. Strike King Football head with a Bama Bug Gamehog attached towards the marker buoy. It never made it to the bottom. A 2-pounder is pulling him all over the boat. He is awake now! Number three is now in the livewell. Max fills our limit on his next two casts. He is fired up! We spend the rest of our day fishing this area. We have upgraded to around 17lbs. I said, “Max I think we can win. We have to go now to make weigh in.” He had not even considered the fact someone was going to win the tournament. Now, he thinks he might win. “Let’s go Daddy,” Max exclaimed. The long ride back was slow and bouncy in the 17 foot aluminum. Max fell asleep in my lap on the way back to Paris Landing.
We arrive with just shy of 17lbs and the big bass of the event. Max received a huge bag of tackle, the winner’s purse, and a trophy. He accepted it all with a huge smile and a “thank you” when handed his winnings. This was a very proud moment for the young fisherman. He took off with the other boys to fish around the dock and be a five year old.
We had jumped in the truck to head home. His third nap of the day was just seconds away. Max turns to me and said, “I sure am proud to win my trophy Daddy. The best part of the day was making new friends!” At that moment, he drifted off to sleep. Through the entire adventure, I never knew that I would receive the best gift of the day from the last statement he made before sleep.
Take a kid fishing!
This article originally appeared on http://www.strikeking.com/.