BRIAN JOHNSON ON OUTDOORS: Fishing fun with the boys

Published 1:54 pm Saturday, May 19, 2018

Almost every bass fisherman I know can’t wait to fish the spring spawn. It’s the time of year when up to 90 percent of the bass are in water less than 7 feet deep, and the big sows are full of eggs.

However, I prefer summertime fishing to any other time of year. For me, summertime means early and late morning top water action. The top water explosion is my favorite, by far, and really seems to get the old heart pumping.

This past week I had a great chance to spend a few days on the water with two of my best fishing buddies. These young men are both great fishermen and we always have a blast when we head to the lake together.

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Although they might not like to admit it, I taught them everything they know. You see we have been fishing together their whole lives. Their names are Caleb and Noah, and they are my sons.

The three of us had been planning this fishing trip for about a month, and nothing was going to get in our way of spending quality time together.

Up until this year, we had always taken our fishing trips at the family camp. The camp was built by my two brothers, myself and my parents.

We built it when I was 12 years old so that the family would always have a place to go fishing or hunting.  As I am sure you know, things don’t always turn out the way we plan them in our mind.

I was certain that it was coming but just didn’t know when. This would be the year my parents decided that they wanted to sell the camp rather than let me and my brothers take care of its upkeep and taxes.

My older brother and I gave it our best effort to “save” the family camp. We shared how much it meant to us as well as our best arguments for not selling. I thought we made a valiant effort, but never the less, she went on the market and we were told not to return.

To say I was heart broken would be an understatement. This was the place that I had grown up fishing. It was where we shared many holidays together.

My little brother was married there, and the camp is where I spent my honeymoon. This was the place that I learned to squirrel hunt and also where I killed my first whitetail.  It had become my happy place. I felt peace when I spent time at the camp.

Even though I felt like my guts had been ripped out, I knew that the camp technically belonged to my parents and they could do as they please. I don’t have to like it, but I do still have to honor my parents, regardless. I learned this in Sunday school years ago. So, I put on my big boy pants and made the decision to move on.

We decided that we wouldn’t let the lack of a camp stop us from fishing together.  After all it was about who we were with not just where we were.

We tried staying in a hotel and even camped out in the back of the Chevrolet Suburban one night. These two choices were not the long-term option I was looking for.

I checked out a few camps for sale, but the cost seemed high and I didn’t want to commit to one spot for the rest of my life. There had to be a better solution.

I had secretly wanted an RV ever since I was a kid. I thought this would be the perfect time. I told myself that a motorhome would be an asset to my dog training business. I could use it for evacuation purposes in the event of another hurricane. I would simply load the dogs in the dog truck and trailer and head north.

My son would drive the dogs and I’d drive the motor home. My wife could pull the bass boat. We would have all that we needed.

A regular dog and pony show without the ponies. It sounded like a great plan, so I started to shop for an RV.

It didn’t take long until I was the proud owner of a nice used 32-foot class A diesel pusher. It had a Cummins engine, an Allison transmission, and a Freight liner chassis.  I was in business. Driving this rig made me feel like I was king of the road.

NOW we were ready to go fishing!  This was our first trip with the boys and our first fishing/RV trip together. We hooked up the boat and drove to Jackson Hill Marina on Lake Sam Rayburn.  When we backed into our spot and put the legs down, I had a great feeling of peace.  It was me, my wife, my boys, our new motorhome and three days to fish.

Within 30 minutes of arriving, we had launched the boat and headed out fishing. The boys and I were smiling ear to ear as we took off across the lake. It had been a while since we fished, and we had never fished this area of the lake before.

We weren’t sure what to expect.  The Good Lord must have been smiling down on us because it wasn’t long until we were all catching fish. In fact, the boys decided that we should have ourselves a small family fishing tournament.

They made the rules as follows:
• 1. Fish had to be over 14 inches to be counted
• 2. Tournament would last the whole trip but each morning and evening would be counted separately for one point. Team with most points at the end wins
• 3. They were on the same team and I was by myself. (They said I had more years experience so they needed to add their years together)

It didn’t seem very fair to me but I decided to play along. It was a blast watching them cheer each other along, but after the first night the score was Dad 1, Boys 0.

The next morning they put it on the old man as they continued to land bass after bass. Both boys were catching and they were having a blast. They would high-five when they caught one and cheer when I lost one.

It was a great morning. The bite didn’t last long but the first hour was fast and furious and they clearly earned the next point. Now the score was tied at 1 each.

That evening I planned to move ahead, but they weren’t going to go down without a fight. In fact, they were beating me right up until the last minute when I landed one a topwater rattlin bug. We would head to the RV and enjoy burgers on the grill in a dead tie. The four of us stayed up all night visiting and decided to sleep in the next morning.

We all enjoyed a good night’s sleep and I served everyone breakfast in bed the next day.

We hung out together, took a nap, and rested up for the final evening of the tournament. It was now go time and I wasn’t going to let my boys beat me. I decided I would fish exclusively with my go to bait.

The Stanley Top Toad was carefully rigged up and ready to dominate. Caleb jumped ahead early and was putting nice fish in the boat. Noah added one about 2.5 pounds and they had me running scared. However, the frog never disappoints and when the evening was over I had caught exactly one more bass than my boys.

In fishing tournaments I guess an inch is as good as a mile. Not only did dear ol’ Dad catch the most, he caught the biggest.  A nice 6.5-pounder to top it off.
The real victory wasn’t in catching more fish, as I am sure you are aware.  The victory was in overcoming a bad situation with a good attitude.

It was in spending time with the ones I love. The victory was in moving forward and starting new family traditions while saying good bye to old ones. It looks like this summer is going to be great after all.

Brian Johnson, originally of Port Neches, is pastor of the Outdoorsman’s Church in Winnie, owner of and outdoors writer for The News.