I remember it just like it was yesterday. The sound of dust-filled gravel gargling beneath the almost-bald tires of my dad’s 1952 Chevrolet. The ear piercing screech of the rusted cattle gate swinging open. The smell of cow manure, viewed repulsive by most, filling my lungs and tying my stomach in knots of excitement. We’d crest the small ridge of the 60-acre pasture, swerving between curious calves and protective bulls, and finally, after we’d idle past the rustic hay barn on our left, there it was—my family’s sanctuary.
It was the place that shed us of our worries and allowed us to follow in the footsteps of our forefathers. The one place we could go where we didn’t have to worry about my ailing grandparents, my book report I turned in late or my dad’s extensive travel schedule that took him away from us all too often. It was a Sunday staple throughout my childhood summers—J.P. Wallis’ farm pond.
We never caught any giants out of the 2-acre pond—just the occasional 2-pound bass, a hand-sized bluegill or a nasty catfish. But that was never the point for us. No matter how slow the fishing was, my family and I never left the farm feeling empty handed. It was about the family time, the laughing and the much needed catching up. As we would sit on the squeaky tailgate of dad’s truck and patiently watch our gas station bobbers as the Georgia summer sun rested atop the tall pines, we were happy. We were content.
Fast forward twenty-something years to a time much different, to a time void of childhood simplicity. Old man J.P. has long since passed, I’ve grown up and left my hometown and book reports are the least of my worries. I am doing what I love, constantly surrounded by the newest tackle trends, the fastest boats and the latest and greatest in fancy fishing equipment. I’ve also been blessed enough to share both informative and touching moments with some of the more influential folks in the fishing industry, which brings me to my point.
I was on the road with Wired2Fish president Terry Brown recently and he said something that struck me. Something that, for some inexplicable reason, actually choked me up a bit—“Bank fishermen have a special place in Heaven.”
It hit me pretty hard. As many of us are idling around with fancy electronics looking for schools of big bass, there is someone, somewhere sitting patiently. They don’t know if there are any fish beneath their bait. They couldn’t even begin to tell you what action their rod is, what it’s made of or if it has a parabolic bend. And you know what? That’s incredible to me. It’s awesome.
The heart of a bank fisherman is that of contentment. The same content feeling that overwhelmed my mind as a young boy watching bobbers with my loved ones. These pioneers cannot simply pick up the trolling motor and move onward in search of better waters. They stick it out through the good, the bad and the ugly. Bank fishermen deal with what they’ve been dealt—none of the fancy equipment, just raw instinct and passed on knowledge from grandfathers, grandmothers and local legends.
Bank fishermen have ankles of steel, conditioned to withstand the pain of standing on uneven banks in search of the fish of a lifetime. With calloused hands and optimistic minds, these anglers brave the elements—the thorn bushes, the poison ivy, the summer mosquitoes—to find their inner peace and leave their everyday worries behind.
These anglers don’t have sponsorships, fiberglass bass boats or tackle boxes full of expensive tackle. Maybe their only fishing equipment is what their grandfather used to catch his first bass. As the diehard bass anglers scream past them in their sparkly bass boats, these folks are the first ones to raise a hand, crack a friendly smile and say hello. It isn’t a competition to them—only a deep, binding brotherhood spurred by a shared passion and reverence for the creatures we seek.
If you’re like me, it’s been far too long since you’ve dusted off the lawn chairs and simply watched bobbers with your loved ones. Instead of hooking up your bass boat this weekend, consider an alternative approach. Grab your kids, significant other or even a few buddies and buy a Styrofoam bucket full of minnows. Listen to the sounds. Smell the air. Look at the sky. Relax. Talk and laugh with old friends.
Maybe your bobber goes under, maybe it doesn’t. Try to forget about the fish for an afternoon, enjoy the outdoors and be content. You’ll find it to be a revival of sorts, and you may be surprised at just how good it feels. As we venture into 2013, a year already filled with political and economic turmoil, I encourage you to take a lesson from this special breed of outdoorsman. Embrace simplicity, put aside your worries and find your special place in Heaven this year.