Bass University Student Showcase with Heath and Ivy.
Starting this week, The Bass University will bring you showcase students from past sites. This week we are are honored to bring you a story that has touched our hearts. It is every anglers dream to share their passion for the outdoors with their children. Heath and Ivy are from Tennessee, and this is their story on how fishing has brought them closer as a family. We want to thank Heath for writing in and sharing their story!
I attended the December 2010 Bass University in Nashville, TN the class provided some very helpful tools that have contributed putting more and bigger bass in the boat. The insight gained at the BU along with other input from local fisherman and tested with time on the water has in turn helped me as well as my tournament partner who is also my daughter improve our catch ratio. I was very disappointed that BU did not return to Nashville in 2011, please come back to West Tennessee soon!
I have a pretty unique background story, it starts off fairly typical with fishing small ponds and other waters I could get my little plastic water scamp type boat into. Life got in the way of fishing for a little while, but it is hard to stay away from something you love. God blessed my wife and I with a wonderful young lady named Ivy who had lost her mother to cancer, and whose father was not up to the task of caring for her. After several years of custody we were able to adopt her. She is somewhat of a daddy’s girl and our “thing” was outdoor activities – fishing, hunting, hiking, and geocaching. She has always loved fishing due to a interest created by her grandfather at an early age. Several years ago we added camping to some of our fishing outings. I had a 18 foot aluminum hunt/fish boat at the time.
During one of our planned camping/fishing trips I thought that since neither one of us had ever fished a bass tournament it would be something memorable to do, worst case she would have a funny story to tell her friends at school. I rearranged my work schedule, made the campground reservations, and thought I had the tournament dates (Bass Boat Central Rally) correct but good ole dad had the tournament date one weekend off. Since we were both looking forward to a tournament I looked for other options, and found a Fishing For A Cure tournament the same weekend. It was a bigger event than I planned for but thought that our first tournament and fishing to raise money for a cause that Ivy could relate to on a personal level was sure to be a winner. Fast forward to tournament day, I was shocked to discover the field consisted of 116 boats. I had one of the only two aluminum boats in the field of competitors and was pretty intimidated sitting among all those 20 & 21 foot fiberglass boats. Ivy, then 12 years old was pretty impressed with the marina full of boats with the navigation lights on and a slight fog on the water at dawn. It was an awesome sight to see for the first time, but I couldn’t help thinking what in the world had I gotten myself into!
Fishing proved to be tough for us, we landed only one keeper. The ride back to the weigh in was a rough one in the aluminum boat as the wind had picked up at Pickwick Lake. Ivy had a smile on her face the entire bone jarring ride back. We arrived a few minutes early to the check in. I asked Ivy if she wanted to weigh our one fish or put him back and hope to get drawn in the “no fish pot”, all the while knowing there was no way I was going to miss out on watching her carrying the fish to the scales. She struggled for a while with the decision knowing the smart move was to put the fish back. Just as she was in the middle of saying “let’s put the fish back”, I told her that we should weigh the fish. The glow on her face was priceless and all you could see was teeth with the smile she had. Needless to say we didn’t win the tournament, but the experience we had was a definite win. After some discussion we decided that we would like to fish more tournaments. Shortly thereafter upgraded the boat to a new to me Puma FTD, and began my quest to try to learn all I could about bass fishing. A few months after the boat was purchased I attended the 2010 Nashville BU.
In 2011 Ivy and I fished a Team Trails adult/youth series at Pickwick and she even fished several adult Team Trails tournaments as my partner. After a tournament or two I was finally able to convince Ivy to fish a shakey head, on the first cast she pulled up a 2 ½ pounder. Several hours and 20 bass into her day one shakey head fishing Ivy asked me “Dad, am I fishing it correctly?” She was not fishing it according to the text book technique, I told her “No, but don’t change a thing! In fact I am going to have you show ME how to fish it.” After that day she was hooked and now proudly has the title of “shakey head queen”. We didn’t get a win that year in either series but did have some respectable finishes and learned something every time we were on the water. I did take big fish (7 pounds) in one of the Team Trail tournaments with jig techniques learned at Bass U, and Ivy missed big fish by just a few ounces in one tournament with a 3 ½ pound small mouth.
In 2012 we are fishing a Pickwick adult/youth series called Kids First and I am fishing in the BFL when time allows. Kids First is organized by people that have the right idea about promoting fishing with youth by putting the kids interest first. I can’t say enough good things about them. The series is averaging a respectable 22+ boats a tournament. We have fished in two tournaments so far and have taken 1st and 4th (Missed 3rd by less than 1 ounce). Our next one will be on 5/12/12. One really neat thing about fishing with Ivy is that she contributes to the 5 fish limit and is not just along for the boat ride. I can’t express the happiness in my heart when I see the smile on her face or laughter in her voice when we find a school of bass and pull them out one after another or when we double up and each have a bass on at the same time. Most of the time she is right up with me on numbers of fish caught, and has on occasion landed the big fish in our limit. I am looking forward to the day she takes the lead on numbers of fish caught.
I attended the BU because I wanted to become a better fisherman and felt that by becoming a more knowledgeable fisherman I could help Ivy become more successful. Being successful at something increases the enjoyment, if you enjoy it the interest will be there, and will do it more often. Hopefully fishing will be a lifelong activity for Ivy like it has been for me.
The most helpful things I took away from the BU is a “Never give up” attitude, treating fishing like a puzzle and using the information that the fish are giving you or not giving you to establish a pattern, a better understanding the different zones and eliminating water, and the importance of at home map preparation and research. Sure, you can read about fishing or watch it on TV, however hearing it and seeing it being presented along with the ability to ask questions makes for a far better understanding.
Another huge item that I am finally figuring out is patience and returning to appreciating the enjoyment of fishing. It was addressed during the BU seminar, but I finally made the connection recently. I got caught up in the tournament finish last year. Everyone wants to win, but I not only wanted to win for myself but for Ivy. I thought that if we could win, fishing would hold her interest longer. I am confident in saying that is not the case. If you get so wrapped up in trying to win other things get over looked, most importantly the reason you fish. For me the reason I fish with my daughter is to spend time with her away from the rest of the family, find out what is going on in her life, share life lessons, create a stronger bond, discuss conservation and stewardship, and create memories we will both have for a lifetime. Kids like to win as much as the adults, but what they want more than a win is to simply spend time with you.
Last year she and I were pre fishing for an upcoming tournament, we were moving quickly and covering water without much luck finding fish. By mid-morning she was bored and frustrated (with me for moving the boat to fast for her to fish), I happened across some schooling bass feeding on shad in a shallow cove. After catching a several bass and determining the school was full of small bass, I was ready to move on and keep looking, but Ivy had started catching fish as well and the smile had returned to her face. I reluctantly decided to put scouting on the back burner, be fun dad, and let her catch fish. We caught fish after fish after fish from that same school in a 60 yard stretch of bank for over 2 hours! On the ride home both of us with bloody thumbs from lipping so many bass she looked at me and said “I like fun dad a lot better than tournament dad.” WOW, what a punch in the face that was, my heart sunk when I heard that. In my eagerness to force success I lost sight of what the goal really was. After that I focused on slowing down, taking time to show her how to instead of just doing it, having fun, focusing on her instead of winning, explaining what she is looking at on the Humminbird, teaching her to drive the boat, and run the trolling motor. I still fish giving my best effort, but the tournament finish takes a back seat priority. If we catch fish fantastic, but if we don’t the day is still a success because we spent it together having fun and making memories.
This year Ivy and I are working on time management, at topic also covered at BU. She asked me why I caught more fish than she did, and I told her because my lure is in the water longer giving me more opportunities to catch fish. That idea has taken off with her and she is making better use of her fishing time by eating/snacking on runs and having gear prepped and organized. We have a pretty good netting, weighing, and cull tag system going now. She now gets on the trolling motor to keep the boat and her bait in the right area when I am re-tying or weighing fish. All of which is keeping the bait in the water longer contributing to success.
I have a great deal left to learn, but I am grateful on the head start provided from BU along with other local fisherman (that have also attended BU) and looking forward to learning more with Ivy on the water. The next time BU comes near Memphis Ivy will be sitting next to me in class.
If you would like to featured in our student showcase, please email our web administrator Rob Lever at email@example.com. All submissions will be reviewed by the BU staff and the student will be notified when their story will run on the site.