Tournaments for Teens and KidsTournaments for Teens and Kids If you love bass fishing, and want to help grow and promote our sport, there’s no better way than helping and teaching youngsters who are eager to get started. Here's how.
By M.L. Anderson
The only way to keep competitive bass fishing strong is to recruit new anglers, and the best way to do this is to take young people fishing. Do you remember when you first started bass fishing? I do, and even though it was a long time ago, I still remember being hungry for information, reading everything I could find about bass and how to catch them. Back then, computers and cell phones weren’t a thing (yeah, I’m an old timer), so magazines were the only way to go. I learned a lot by fishing local tournaments and getting paired with other anglers, but I am actually still learning things about bass fishing every day.
For a kid, bass fishing can seem overwhelming. There is just so much to learn! It’s even harder for kids who don’t have a parent or mentor who fishes. How does a kid like that learn to fish and get the opportunity to fish? Niko Romero (www.thatkidniko.com) is lucky – his dad fishes tournaments and got him into fishing when he was about five years old. Niko actually started fishing tournaments at the ripe old age of eight. He fell in love with the whole thing, he says – “learning how to catch those little green fish”. Niko fishes High School tournaments now. In Arizona, most high schools don’t have bass fishing teams, but in other states many of them do. In Niko’s neck of the woods, I mean desert, kids come from a variety of schools to fish the Arizona Bass Nation tournaments.
The High School Bass Nation is a seasonal club, Niko says, with dues and entry fees for the team tournaments. There are four regional High School Opens, and top teams from the state high school championships and get to compete in the nationals. This year it was in Tennessee at Kentucky Lake. It all starts with team tournaments at local lakes. Each team needs to have a boat captain, an adult who drives the boat. If they don’t have one, the tournament committee will try to assign one to them. Volunteering to be a boat captain is a great way to help these young anglers learn the sport.
Niko says the boat captain drives the boat, but doesn’t give out information on spots, techniques, etc. They can give advice on what the kids are doing, but the whole point is for the kids to make the decisions. The kids are also required to do community service and fundraising projects during the year, so these clubs really help teach kids responsibility. Niko says he’s met many of his best friends at the club as well.
The club tournaments here in central Arizona usually run about 18 boats, Niko says, with 36-40 kids fishing. There is also a Junior Bassmasters club for kids 7 – 13 years old. Niko found these clubs just talking to kids and looking at Facebook. The Bassmaster clubs are not the only game in town – The Bass Federation (FLW) also has junior and high school teams. All of these kids need mentors and captains. Niko says he wants to be a professional bass fisherman, and says he wouldn’t be where he is today without the clubs. You can’t get to the Nationals without the clubs, and the Nationals are where you get the “fame”, he says. Many colleges now have bass fishing teams, and even scholarships for anglers. He’s looking at three such colleges right now, and Niko’s advice for young anglers is “start with the clubs, be persistent, and if you lose, don’t let it get you down – just go again”.
Being a boat captain is just one way of helping kids get started in bass fishing. I know a guy named Shannon who is a high school teacher. In his spare time, he actually teaches a bass fishing class, then takes the kids to the ponds near his home to let them apply the skills they’ve learned. Eddie Johns of Alabama also teaches fishing to kids, and in fact has put together a “Blueprint for Fishing”. With this in hand, Eddie teaches fishing at local schools. The classes usually run about 45 minutes, he says, but could run to 3 hours if the kids really get into asking questions. He once taught for an hour each night five days a week for six weeks – there’s plenty to learn about bass fishing!
His “Blueprints for a Successful Tournament Angler” covers everything from etiquette to map reading, tournament prep, keeping a log book, equipment, electronics, and 21 techniques for catching bass. Bass clubs regularly invite him to talk to the kids, and people find him by word of mouth and Facebook. He is also a boat captain for local kids’ fishing clubs. The rules are a bit different in the local clubs he fishes – there are one or two kids in each boat, as well as an adult who also is allowed to fish. The kids weigh in their biggest fish, and that fish MUST be caught by them, not by an adult in the boat. The adults weigh up to five fish, but one of those five must be caught by the kid. The captains can’t hook or land the fish for the kids, and he says that he actually spends a lot more time teaching on the boat than he does fishing. He teaches them how to fight and land a fish, and always turns them on to Trapper Hooks, which are one of his best tools – he says they make a huge difference in the boating ratio, and that really builds the kids’ confidence.
One thing Eddie loves most about tournament fishing is that the competition is straight across the board – it doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, big or small – we’re all just competing against the fish. When he’s going to be teaching fishing at a school, he emphasizes to the school that the flyers need to state that both boys and girls are invited to the classes. In the classes, he also teaches the kids how to put together a portfolio to help them get fishing scholarships and sponsors.
You can find out how to be a team captain by contacting your local Junior or High School Bass clubs. They should be easy to find on Facebook and on the Bassmaster and FLW websites. If you’re interested in learning more about Eddie’s Blueprint for Fishing, you can find him on Facebook as well – Eddie Johns-Pro Page. You can also email him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you love bass fishing, and want to help grow and promote our sport, there’s no better way than helping and teaching youngsters who are eager to get started. Check around and you’ll soon find a way you can help.
One thing that kids do better than many adults is social media. If you don’t think it’s important, think again. How else does a kid Niko Romero’s age get paying sponsors like A & M Graphics, Great Embroidery, Lake Fork Trophy Lures, Hovan Vison, The Original Rod Sock, DJ Custom Jigs, Lucky Tackle Box, Liquid Mayhem, Taipan Rods, Illude Baits, Signature Gate Systems and Welding Co., Sun Valley Fiberglass, and ProStrike? Besides doing really well at tournaments, Niko also has a big online presence including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and his own webpage. He’s very active online, constantly sharing fishing photos and info, and promoting his sponsors and the sport.
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