No matter what story I’m telling I always find myself referring something back to my father. People who know me well know he was a huge part of me becoming the man I am today. I count it a blessing to have someone like him to take me fishing because many don’t have that same opportunity. There wasn’t a Junior Bassmaster tournament that he didn’t sacrifice his time to be my boat captain. I will never be able to repay him for the opportunities that he got started in my life, but hopefully, I can pass the favor on.
As I write this, high school fishing is thriving. It has taken off in a way that most didn’t expect. It seems every time I turn around another high school fishing team has been assembled. This couldn’t be a more exciting time in the sport of bass fishing. With this big push of well-educated young fishermen, the future is looking very bright.
High school teams have many different needs but one that every team has is the need for quality boat captains. Just like my father did for me, there are many individual teams out there that need someone to lead them through their early years of tournament fishing. Being a boat captain is more than offering up your boat. Although the use of a boat is very important, what you can teach them is even more important.
To be a quality boat captain you need to understand that these high school fishing tournaments are not about you – they are all about those two young, eager teenage students in the front of your boat. Once you get that out of the way the rest becomes much easier. Try to remember what it was like fishing your first few tournaments. Nothing can compare to the anticipation and excitement. Don’t take that away from them by making their day on the water uncomfortable. Always be the one who is calm, cool, and collected. They are going to look to you for guidance and how you react to situations (e.g. weather, fishing not biting, fatigue, etc.) can directly affect their success. We all know fishing is more a mental game than we like to admit. Being under control and making them feel comfortable will allow them to fish to the best of their ability.
Always be a pro-active captain. I understand an eight hour day can get very long but falling asleep behind the console is a sure way to tell the team you have lost confidence in them. Rules will vary between tournaments but usually, all will allow you to help the team in some way. That could be anything from suggesting new spots, re-tying lures, or watching the weather on your phone. With that being said I would warn against doing everything for them. There is a fine line between doing things to help out and not letting them learn through this process.
Try to always know your team. Just like more-mature anglers, high school teams will have baits and fishing styles they are confident in and things that are way outside of their comfort zone. During the course of a tournament, day is not the time to push them very far out of their comfort zone. Know what they do well ahead of time and use that in the game plan. One thing that I have always noticed with younger anglers is that they will lose confidence quickly. Keeping them in situations where they feel like they will catch fish any minute will keep them casting and focused for longer periods of time. The more time they spend focused will directly affect the outcome of the day. Know what your team likes but also know what they can and can’t tolerate. Sometimes suggesting a short break to eat, drink, and discuss the rest of the day is the best thing you can do for them.
With the right team, you may be able to critique them without downing their confidence. Rick Clunn was my boat captain for a Junior Bassmaster World Championship once and he would let me know how many casts a minute I was making. If he thought it should be more, he would let me know. This didn’t negatively affect me because I knew that he believed in my fishing ability or else he wouldn’t have put that much time into counting my casts. He was pro-active and it helped me throughout the day.
Providing your boat and your time is a huge favor to these teams but the boat captains that take it to the next level will really help these teams in the long run. Being a quality captain is not a difficult task and in fact can be quite rewarding. If you are a current boat captain to a team, good for you and the sport of fishing thanks you for teaching the next generation of anglers. If you haven’t tried it, I suggest you do. Who knows, they might just teach you a thing or two!