Contributed by Crystal Keill
“Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate.” – David A. Wolfe
With all of the dissension over rights lately, the one thing we all should feel compelled to do is to promote what we love. I’ve decided to do just that.
Earlier this year, a fellow teacher came to me expressing that her son is an avid angler. She explained that this 12-year-old would rush home each day from school in order to quickly exchange his book bag for his Shimano backpack filled with his fishing gear. He would then hop on his bicycle with his rod in his hand and ride over to one of the few ponds in his neighborhood to spend as many minutes with his line in the water before heading home to begin the nightly ritual of hours of homework— only to repeat this process each week day. If her son was lucky enough to have been assigned minimal homework, he would talk his parents into helping him wheel his kayak into the water. On evenings when the weather didn’t permit fishing, he would stay home to watch “how-to” videos on YouTube to learn new methods for knot tying or walking-the-dog with topwaters. In class, during the day, he’d often find it difficult to concentrate on the task at hand— sporadically distracted by the science of fishing.
His parents, I’ve observed, have been very supportive of his angling interests. There have been multiple trips to tackle stores for the best lures, line, and rods. He’s got an inflatable PFD and a kayak. Even Santa left him a GoPro under the tree last year! My fellow teacher explained that she just knows that this will likely be the career path he chooses. He will fish. And he will promote what he loves. Unfortunately, she continued to explain, “it is difficult to find tournaments for his age group, and there are almost no youth teams in this area for a 12-year-old.” As an English teacher, and someone relatively new to the fishing world, I simply suggested more research.
I must have been too swept up in whatever piece of classic literature I had to teach that week because, admittedly, I didn’t put much thought into what she was truly asking. I briskly told her that the next time we took the kayaks out, we would be more than happy to take him with us. I almost completely dismissed the fact that a parent was asking for help for a child who needed support.
Luckily, for this kid, his parents do NOT give up. This fellow teacher of mine continued vetting me for a few months. In April, she decided that I was the one who was going to be able to help her find a way to fill a need for the students in our school who were born and raised on the water, the ones who are desperately looking for a place in which to fit… a place to do what they love now- instead of having to wait to hone their angling skills. She had done her research and introduced me to the Student Angler Federation and its program to support kids earning their way to college through competitive fishing. She concluded by pointedly asking, “Well?”
Well- my response was, “Let’s do this. How can we not? See a need, fill a need.” I am so thankful for her drive and inspiration, as helping to build this team has been an amazingly positive experience for me. And we are just getting started.
I guess neither of us realized the tsunami-sized response that would occur within days of putting up five 8 ½ by 11 inch “posters”. We had 47 students submit paperwork to sign-up. We had close to 70 students and parents attend the first informational meeting. Not only did we underestimate how many students would be interested; we grossly overestimated how many parents would have boats to captain during the tournaments. Add to that how many lures, rods, and PFDs we DON’T have. (Now, I don’t teach math for a reason, so I will let you run all of these numbers. I’m sure you’ll swiftly find out that we need some serious help.)
We are very grateful for the community support we have received thus far. Wade Bullard, at Hook Spit, in League City stepped up to create a tournament circuit (Hook Spit Junior Anglers Association) that will boast three freshwater tournaments and three saltwater tournaments for the 2015-2016 school year. Jenai Marek, host of the YouTube show “Momma Shark & the Hook-Up”, is sponsoring a summer challenge for the kids that has proven to educate and motivate our student anglers and angling parents. The summer challenge even attracted the attention of The Galveston Daily Newspaper, as the kids were featured in Saturday’s sports section. Calypso Trading Company is donating to the team $2 for every Sun Series shirt purchased from their website through the month of July. A big thank you to Mike at Down South Lures for his support. Furthermore, there was a box of Fish Grips sitting on my porch last Thursday that was sent and donated by this amazing company. And my ever-so-supportive husband, Tony Keill, will be donating his time, as an ACA certified instructor, to teach them kayak safety and proper paddling techniques.
This post isn’t meant to brag about personal or team accomplishments since we haven’t truly accomplished anything at this point. Conversely, it is a call to action. It is meant to give kayak anglers and readers like you a chance to promote what you love. 88% of our kids expressed a strong interest in kayak angling, yet the amount of kayak tournaments for student anglers is almost non-existent. Even when we do find a few in our area, we still have to round up kayaks, paddles, and a way to haul all of that gear with our current budget of $0. (Again— you do the math.)
If you, at all, are interested in helping to share the passion of kayak fishing with these kids, promote what you love by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any ideas that you have about how we can build a strong foundation for the next angling generation.