UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Dale Hollow Lake

Teen idols gone fishin’

Teen idols gone fishin’
Sixteen-year-old Zach Morrison of Hampstead, N.C., claimed first place and $2,050 July 20 in the 152-competitor Co-angler Division on the Neuse River.

Young anglers offer hope that our beloved sport has legs

A powerful force is stirring among us. A force for good. A force that stands for the strength of families and the majesty of the outdoors. A force that shuns the violent imagery so prevalent in our society in favor of peaceful landscapes and tranquil waterways. Fueling this force is a groundswell of diehard teens and preteens who would rather be casting a line in the hope of landing a 10-pounds bass than glued to the set in the hope of catching the latest music video or Hollywood scandal.

Such well-grounded youths like Zach Morrison of Hampstead, N.C., and educators like Dave Perron of Peoria, Ill. offer hope that fishing as we know it will survive and prosper. They offer hope that our beloved sport has legs. That it won't surrender its reputation. That the next generation will have fishing memories and our lakes and rivers will be safeguarded but not placed under glass.

Morrison, 16, competes in the BFL's Piedmont Division, where he doesn't just show up as a teenage novelty, either. This kid wins.

In 2002, casting as a co-angler, Morrison secured first at the Neuse River event with a five-bass, 8-pound 13-ounce limit. That afternoon Morrison sauntered home with a $2,050 check in his back pocket, and months later, quite wisely, he "still has most of the winnings." Morrison did, though, drop a couple hundred bucks into his Isuzu Trooper. A guy's got to have a working ride, you know.

Morrison says he really took to fishing at age 12, biking and hiking to local ponds in pursuit of bass. Over time, his after-school hobby evolved into a passion, and that zeal prompted Morrison to lobby his dad to reacquaint with bass fishing and ultimately procure a bass boat. Kenneth Morrison - Zach's old man and a competent basser in his own right - fishes in the Piedmont Division as well.

Admirably, young Morrison pays for his own tournament entry fees, too. For wages, he oysters along North Carolina's whitewashed beaches but thinks he'll need to supplement that income to fish the full 2003 schedule.

Dreams of fishing professionally have always wafted through Morrison's mind. His rock stars are guys like Bill Dance, Kevin VanDam and Davy Hite. And when you consider Morrison's tender age, accomplishments and motivated personality, there's no reason he can't play in that band.

In the advancement of fishing there are both mentors and apprentices. Educator Dave Perron is undoubtedly a mentor. Just last year, from his post in the physical education department at Peoria Christian School in Peoria, Ill., Perron taught a three-week course titled "Lifetime PE."

"The objective of the course was to teach students ways to stay active when they're over 70," Perron said with a titter in his voice. It was evident that his goals were serious but the subject matter rather jocular.

In addition to golf and tennis, Perron's course covered fishing. Students learned about the three fundamental types of gear - fly, spinning and bait-casting - as well as lure types and a range of presentations.

Perron embraced a hands-on approach too, as students cast lures at targets in the school's gymnasium. The class also embarked on three fishing field trips to private ponds. One student, in fact, hooked the biggest bass of his life on a sanctioned field trip.

Twenty-two kids participated in the elective but credited course, roughly half boys and half girls; half of those had never fished before. Perron, who also fishes in the BFL, said that most participants indicated they'd continue fishing recreationally, too.

A chorus of those fledgling fishing voices can also be heard in Chula Vista, Calif., a suburb of San Diego. Here, where coastal and freshwater ecosystems meet, 15 high school students in the Sweetwater District officially lettered in the sport of fishing. And to tout the accomplishment, they proudly wear a bass emblem on their varsity jackets.

The teenage fishing revolution isn't reserved for bucketmouths, either. Brandon Henexson, 17, lives for walleyes. The Denver, Colo., high school student takes the species so seriously that he stalks them as a co-angler on the Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Tour.

Last season, Henexson battled in three events, including the Wal-Mart RCL Championship on the Mississippi River in Red Wing, Minn. He wound up in 13th position for the tournament, actually leading the field after day one with a five-fish clutch that weighed 24 pounds, 2 ounces.

Henexson's competitive fishing career began at the tender age of 9, jigging as partner to his dad - Kenny Henexson - in local contests sponsored by the Colorado Walleye Association. Significant impressions were also made on Henexson during family vacations to Canada, where walleyes always seem just a little bit easier and plentiful. His most memorable catch was a 7 1/2-pounder he caught at age 12.

Back at home in Colorado, Henexson shares his fervor for walleyes with several schoolmates. They make frequent trips to Nebraska's Lake McConaughey and Wyoming's Glendo Reservoir, two storied walleye fisheries.

The sharing doesn't end at the boat landing, either. Henexson volunteers his time and knowledge to an outdoor education program that teaches impressionable grade schoolers everything from fishing skills to how to properly use a compass.

Henexson's crystal ball reveals more competitive walleye fishing, too. His 2003 calendar includes only one RCL Tour event due to school-related conflicts like graduation. But in 2004, he anticipates turning pro and fishing the complete circuit. Between now and then, when not bouncing in the waves, he plans to bank a few hours with his dad's electrical outfit to offset imminent entry fees.

Henexson wasn't the only teen bumping elbows with the big boys. Eighteen-year-old Stephen Anderson of London, Ky., fished the full FLW Tour schedule in 2002. He, in fact, deposited a $3,500 check from a 27th-place finish on Old Hickory Lake.

Anderson has also performed remarkably in the BFL's Mountain Division. In 2000, he was 19th in overall points and then followed that with a ninth-place finish at the Lake Gaston Regional.

There are sibling tandems, too. Brothers Richard "R.J." Bennett and Michael Bennett of Grass Valley, Calif., often dominated the BFL's Western Division.

The Bennett brothers, R.J. and Michael, show off some of their work.Nineteen-year-old R.J., the elder Bennett, has angled in the BFL since 2000. In divisional point standings, R.J. ended up fifth in 2000, 13th in 2001 and 32nd in 2002. That's pretty incredible for a kid who hasn't even seen his twenties. But it gets even better. R.J. grabbed 27th place at the 2002 All-American and was runner-up at the 2001 Lake Shasta Regional. More? In tournament play, his biggest fish to date is a monstrous 10-pound, 12-ounce bass from the California Delta. And from the finance department, R.J. has already brought home nearly $12,000 in earnings.

Remember when Venus Williams was the only Williams? Then along came her younger sister Serena, and now there are two Williamses to be concerned about. The Bennetts are much the same. Younger brother Michael is out there beating the bass, too. Continuously sliding up the charts, Michael ended the 2000 BFL season in 21st place; earned eighth place in 2001 and second place in 2002. He also made marks at the 2001 Lake Shasta Regional - fourth place - and the 2002 Lake Havasu Regional - 22nd place.

Another youngster worth watching is 17-year-old Chris Miller. The Neoga, Ill., bass fanatic fished the entire Illini Division schedule in 2002 as a co-angler, capping off the season with a second-place finish on the Ohio River in June.

Miller is the grandson of legendary basser Mary Satterfield-Benge. She broke ground for women in competitive fishing and has been an inspiration for Miller since childhood. Miller was 5 years old when he first stepped in the boat with her, and in that year caught a 7-pounder on Lake Shelbyville. He was hooked for life.

He plans to fish the full plate of Illini Division events in 2003. His long-term aspirations are to fish professionally, with the full support of his mom, dad, grandpa and grandma.
Miller looks up to such anglers as Shaw Grigsby, Bill Dance and, of course, his grandma. He also shares his time on the water with his two brothers and "just about anyone who wants to go fishing."

With guys like Miller, Henexson, the Bennetts and others like them serving as fishing ambassadors, promoting sportsmanship and conservationism, and influencing their peers to fish, the future of our sport is bright, indeed.

Tags: noel-vick  magazine-features 

Jay Kendrick Q&A

Jay Kendrick Q&A

I don’t want to come off cocky or overconfident, but I don’t remember having that feeling like I’d made it or anything. I never doubted I would. It was just a matter of time. Just like I have no doubt I’ll win an FLW Tour event. It’s just a matter of time, though I think that’s close. READ MORE »

Buddy Gross Q&A

Buddy Gross Q&A

I’ve never been one to watch all the tournaments on TV. I’m not a good spectator; I’d rather be actually fishing. Now my best friend and tournament partner, James Milling, he’s always watching them and keeping me informed. He shows up all the time with the latest and greatest fishing lures. He gets on me about it. READ MORE »

Tom Monsoor Q&A

Tom Monsoor Q&A

He liked to fish, but it was my mom, Lola, who loved to fish. Every chance she got she’d drag us out to go fishing. She lived to fish. In fact, to the day she died, she had a wooden, flat-bottom rowboat on Blue Lake in La Crosse. READ MORE »

2014 Buyer’s Guide: Soft plastics

2014 Buyer’s Guide: Soft plastics

No category of lure is as flexible as soft-plastic lures – both in action and in use. Not only do soft plastics move freely, even when deadsticked, but the range of their use is limited only by the angler’s imagination. READ MORE »

2-D sonar strategies

2-D sonar strategies

There was a time when experience almost always trumped equipment when it came to finding fish. If you wanted to be a better fisherman, you got out there on the water and paid your dues. You learned the spots that produced at certain times of the year, and culled the 90 percent of the water that was almost always void of bass. The last decade or so of fish-finding technology has changed the paradigm, however. Now anglers can buy a Lowrance HDS unit, cruise likely looking spots on any lake and literally see bass. READ MORE »

Swim-jigging winter grass lines

Swim-jigging winter grass lines

You can rip rattle baits through winter grass beds like everyone else, or you can offer bass something different: a swim jig. Veteran bass pro Ron Shuffield says a swim jig is one of his preferred cool-weather lures when bass set up camp on grass-line edges. It’s a lure that can be worked quickly, or dragged more slowly when conditions warrant a change-up. READ MORE »

Hog hunters

Hog hunters

A five-fish limit is the first measure of success and job one in a tournament. But it’s how you see that quintet shaping up that sets the tone for your performance. Is it an open audition where anything that measures will do, or do you want five stars that’ll rock any stage? READ MORE »

Never (hardly) ever lose a fish

Never (hardly) ever lose a fish

How many good fish do you lose in a season of fishing, whether it’s in a tournament or just when you’re fishing for the fun of it? If it’s more than you can count on your fingers, perhaps it’s time for some constructive self-criticism. Are the fish at fault, or are you? In case it’s the latter, we offer the following advice, observations and tips from some top pros regarding how to put the odds of landing a fish successfully more in your favor. READ MORE »

X Marks the spot

X Marks the spot

Two things stand out about winter bass fishing: The fish get a little bit pickier about where they want to be, and anglers don’t want to spend as much time running a bass boat around a frigid lake trying to find them. READ MORE »

Q&A with Andy Morgan

Q&A with Andy Morgan

I wouldn’t say it was a perfect season, but it sure worked out. I mean, it was a good year, but not a great year. I was surprised to even have a shot to win after Beaver Lake (he finished 68th). Honestly, it was never even on my mind until someone mentioned right before Chickamauga that I had a shot at winning it. READ MORE »

Last-minute holiday gift guide

Last-minute holiday gift guide

Naughty? Nice? Who cares – Christmas isn’t far away, and any bad behavior can be overlooked for a while as we celebrate the season with presents for those nearest and dearest. As is our custom, we’ve appointed ourselves Santa’s helpers and came up with a few gift ideas. We’ve also selected goodies that cover a range of price options. Regardless of their cost, the following gear, gadgets and clothing would make any angler beam with joy. READ MORE »

Boat Care 101: Simple do-it-yourself carpet cleaning

Boat Care 101: Simple do-it-yourself carpet cleaning

If there is one thing I hate worse than seeing a nice bass boat with a filthy finish, it’s seeing one with dirty carpet. I like to keep my stuff clean, but not just because it looks good. A bass boat is a huge investment, and the more you can do to protect that investment the better the returns if you ever decide to sell or trade it. READ MORE »

The Chilly Truth

The Chilly Truth

Not surprisingly, bass fishing has its own set of myths: Bass don’t eat topwaters when it’s sunny, big fish only eat big lures and so on. Winter fishing seems to take myths to a whole new level. Maybe the long hours in freezing cold numbs the mind as much as it does the hands, but one could write an article about how many myths there are regarding this chilly time of year – and whether or not they’re true. READ MORE »

Ask the Experts

Ask the Experts

If I use heavy-gauge hooks for flipping grass with braided line, why not use the same gauge hooks for fishing all soft plastics? READ MORE »

Sound effects

Sound effects

Though some anglers contend that rattling baits don’t necessarily attract strikes, and might even deter them, the preponderance of evidence favors the rattle crowd. Virtually every hard lure made nowadays – crankbaits, jerkbaits, stick baits and so forth – can be had in rattling and silent versions. READ MORE »

Guide to treble hooks

Guide to treble hooks

As a general rule, the treble hooks on the lures of most tournament pros aren’t original equipment. Less-expensive stock trebles are usually replaced with ultra-sharp premium hooks of the angler’s choice. READ MORE »

Dock cranking

Dock cranking

Well-honed casting skills are required to send a crankbait deep into the reaches of a dock. It can’t be skipped on the surface easily, but even an average caster can make a crankbait go where dock bass are likely to be if he employs a trick that Walmart FLW Tour pros Bryan Thrift and Wesley Strader call “driving,” or “steering.” READ MORE »

First Look

First Look

The following products were originally featured in the 2013 August/September issue of Bass Fishing magazine. READ MORE »

Drawdown tactics

Drawdown tactics

As summer winds down, however, things can change quickly on a drawdown lake – a reservoir where lake managers reduce the water level in late summer and early fall. Come practice for the EverStart showdown, Dan Morehead’s fish were nowhere to be found. In fact, despite the amazing pre-practice, Morehead didn’t catch a fish during the first day and a half of practice. The dropping lake and progressing season had caused everything to change. READ MORE »

All the right turns

All the right turns

Tournament fishing isn’t just about catching fish. It’s about making sound decisions based on experience and applying the proper strategies to make good things happen when they count the most. Of course, sometimes it’s just about trusting your instincts. READ MORE »