By Mike Whitten
June 17, 2012
Father’s Day is this weekend, and I’ll spend Saturday fishing a tournament on Pickwick. Some of what I throw will have GYCB written all over it—I’ll keep exactly what quiet for now, but maybe that’s food for a later article.
Father’s Day is special to me and always has been. My grandfather took me to a bunch of farm ponds across the north, and watching him catch a 6 ½ pound bass on a minnow and a slip bobber (shades of Al Lindner) always stands out in my mind. We caught over 100 bass that day and I was never the same. I fished my first tournaments with my dad in the “Ole Cypress Bass” club. We won a few, too! Got to net my dad’s biggest bass ever, almost 8 pounds, during a club tournament on Sardis Lake. I fished for the first time at night with him, and we caught the fire out of them. We started at dusk and fished till dawn—I don’t think he loved fishing as much as he loved his son. He gave me his bass boat, a 1650 Venture Magnum with a 115 Merc, so I could use it as a trade in on my first BassCat—a 1990 Pantera II. I didn’t understand then how much love it took to let me use his boat anytime I wanted, or what it took to give away that boat. He taught me a lot more than just how to fish—he taught me how to be a dad. Alzheimer’s took him from me—but the lessons are still here.
Fast forward 20 years to June 2012 …
I’m still fishing, still running a BassCat, and one of my best fishing partners for 16 of those years has been my lovely and amazing daughter, Meredith. She caught her first fish at age 3 or 4, and has never looked back. She has caught just about everything that swims in Pickwick or the Tennessee River. I’ve held the boat and counted while she caught 100 white bass in a row on a certain brushy point in Sardis Lake. I’ve laughed when she had a 7+ lb hybrid stripe eat a Cordell Gay Blade on her very own Falcon spinning rod/Shimano Stradic rod and reel—the one she specifically asked for at Christmas that year. Actually she wanted a Stella, but we worked our way around that one!
She has fished several tournaments with me, and is as good with a Carolina rig as anyone I’ve ever fished with. She will punish their heads with a ‘Rig in her hand! We never won an event , but we’ve come close. We should have had the brass ring, except for a dad that let seven over three pounds jump off a square bill, we would have been Fishers of Men Legacy winners. She never said a word, just “Dad, it just wasn’t our day.” I think that must have come from her grandfather. I don’t have that kind of grace.
My most favorite tournament memory has nothing to do with catching fish, but revolves around a boat ramp conversation. I was backing Meredith down the ramp in our BassCat Puma FTD/250 Merc rig, and as I backed down, a fellow competitor rolled down his window and asked ,“What’s a girl doing in your boat?” I told him that she was my tournament partner, and he replied, “You let her run your boat? WHY?”
So I told him. “First, because she can run it better than you can ( and she can—I made sure she knows how to drive and load the boat when we started fishing tournaments), second she handles a boat better than a truck and trailer, and finally—she is fishing with me because we love it. And, when she is with me, I know where she is, who she is with and what she is doing, not only today but last night as well. Can you say that about your 17 year old daughter?” A rather sad “NO” was his response.
Most definitely, my Father’s Day memories are full of fishing and family. “Take a Kid Fishing” has been the way of the Whittens for four generations now, and hopefully that won’t end anytime soon. Meredith will be home from an extended study trip with Emory University this summer, where she is a Woodruff Scholar, also related to her fishing background! And when she gets here, some fish are in serious trouble!