Team Toyota’s Brandon Lester has won a million bucks thus far in his short career. And as national touring pro, he’s seen as many boat docks as what his Tundra’s seen interstate exit signs.
But there’s one particular boat dock within sight of iconic Waterfront Grocery boat ramp on Lake Guntersville that means more to the easy-going Tennessee pro than any other.
No, it’s not because he once caught a herd of 4-pounders off that dock and won a tournament. Instead, the special dock produced a few crappies with his grandpa on what would be their last treasured fishing trip together.
“I called him Papa. He was born in 1928, and he was of that old school mindset that fishing was a means to putting food on the table,” grins Lester.
But Hubert Smith was more than just a meat hunter seeking fresh fillets. He served America in the National Guard, was a preacher for 40 years in Fayetteville, Tennessee, and very much the foundation of his grandson Brandon’s future life as a top professional bass angler and all-around good man.
“I spent a ton of time with he and Nana during my summers as a kid. And of course, we went fishing as much as we could in his 16-foot Bumble Bee boat with a 40-horse engine on it. That was the first bass boat I ever rode in, and I thought it was the greatest thing ever,” remembers Lester.
It didn’t take long for the young Lester to move from Papa’s ride-along fishing buddy to being Captain of the small vessel, and that included learning to run the trolling motor.
“He’d always tell me, “One of these days you’re gonna be carrying me fishing,” -- and sure enough I did,” says Lester.
“I knew that particular trip here to Guntersville in 2018 was nearing the end. It was about 5-months before he passed away, and that dock behind me produced enough crappie for me to clean and share for dinner with him that evening. He loved that,” he reflects with emotion while holding up a photo of Papa on his cell phone.
So, while Lester will encounter thousands more boat docks in his still young career, only one will hold a place in his heart for Papa. It’s a big old dock, on the tip of Pine Island Point, blueish grey in color, across from a ramp he frequents often.
“Every time I launch at Waterfront, I think of Papa,” trails Lester’s voice with treasured memories.