Below the Waterline: Investing time and energy into youth anglers has a big payoff

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Fish habitats made by Eagle Scout Eli Crockett are placed on Wednesday, July 15, in Lake Decatur.

I remember it like it was yesterday … too young then to know, but reflecting back to grade school and high school, the lessons learned those days were the ones that formed me.

They were the best days. Teachers we looked up to, friends that are still our friends, and leaders who put us ahead of them. Our Midwest upbringing and values taught us to treat others with respect. It just seemed that politics had a very low priority.

Some call them “glory days” and no doubt my mind thinks now I was a better better player than I really was, but does that really matter? We often look back remembering we could run fast and jump high. but today we hurt doing the littlest things. We ache in places we didn’t know we had and we get shots, replacement parts and take pills to allow us to get through the day.

Those days did do one thing — they showed us how to be tough. We need to instill those traits in our kids now. Being a mentor to a young person can be one of the most rewarding things you will do in your lifetime. Love, compassion and drive are taught early on and it’s important we let them know that earning something is much better than having it given to them.

Fishing can be a mechanism to teach. The fish don’t show favoritism and knowing the biology on the water combined with confidence can be a difference maker.

Young folks just want to feel that someone cares enough to dedicate their time. Coaches know this and most times they are training others.

The fish don’t care if you are a bottle washer or a banker. That is the beauty of it. It is a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-figure-it-out sport. Size and strength have little to do with it. In the animal kingdom it’s called “survival of the fittest.” Believe it or not, in fishing it is also about hard work and dedication.

Being a mentor to a young angler or coaching a team does take dedication and doing so is not a short term obligation. Shaping and molding is more than casting and choosing the right bait. Just ask a high school fishing coach. The rewards are significant and the long term benefit is immeasurable.

Since fishing is a sport that one can participate in their entire life, a kickstart now will be remembered forever. Not every high school angler will continue on and fish competitively or even wet a line through their college and work years, but a few will stick and fish the rest of their lives. They too, if they enjoy the experience will pass their knowledge on. That experience grows on itself.

Coaches for fishing do not have to be experts. I have seen some of the best ones who have done the best jobs are not necessarily anglers themselves. They do know how to motivate, get experts involved with their programs and — most importantly — they teach teamwork and fun. The latter is what fishing is all about.

I recently saw a commercial during the NCAA Basketball Tournament that talked about how few college athletes go on to be professional athletes. I think it was 2%. What they did learn in their sport of choice did lead many of the rest to jobs and careers because they know what hard work and dedication can provide. The same can be true in fishing.

Many high school fishing coaches prepare their teams for the IHSA Sectionals that occur early in May, but many others take those kids to other tournaments across the state, too. I applaud those that prepare for sectionals, but really enjoy seeing those that see it for more than that and stay with it year after year and build a “fishing program” just like stick-and-ball sport coaches do.

Their programs grow on themselves, and year after year they field a team to be proud of. Some high school anglers from those teams go on to get college scholarships in fishing. That is pretty cool in my book.

I have college coaches calling and emailing me all the time looking for talent. I’ve been able to recommend a few who have moved on to the college ranks and enjoyed success there.

Know that hard work at the high school level by good coaching can pay dividends for kids down the road, too. Adult fishing clubs should take an active role with their local teams. They will not only gain new members today, but also help keep young people on the right path moving forward, too.

Bloomington Normal Bass Club- Sangchris Lake

Tom Cassel and Domenic Theison won the BNBC Tournament this past weekend with 5 bass weighing 18.40 pounds. Steve Volz and Wes Gehrt were second with 14.38 pounds anchored by a 5.78 pound bass.

Jon Hodge Memorial-Clinton Lake

Clint Seaman and Tim Potts won at Clinton Lake last weekend with 5 bass of 23.84 pounds. They also had big bass of 7.65 pounds. Michael Vice and Troy Latoz were second with 22.65 pounds.

BNBC Tuesday Nighter at Dawson Lake

Monty and Jamie Gregory won the Tuesday Night Bloomington Normal Bass Club Tournament at Dawson Lake with a 5 bass limit weighing 14.08 pounds anchored by a 6.87 big bass. Jake Golden and Tylor Thompson got second with 5 bass weighing 11.11 pounds.

Tournament season is upon us we will do our best to make sure you get recognition if you email your results to us. Catfish, bass and crappie tournaments are welcome.

Send them to We need 1st and 2nd place and big fish and first and last names of the winners.

Terry Brown is President of, an industry leading, daily website and social media fishing centered community that provides information on products, industry newsmakers and fishing techniques. You can read more by going to