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So You Want to Be a Fishing Guide? Chandler Williams Offers Some Tips

When we last connected with Chandler Williams (@chandler_williams_fishing on Instagram), we told you about his grit: Working for a neighbor to earn his first fly rod; teaching himself how to fly cast; sleeping all night on a dock as a young teenager in order to hitch his first ride with a sport fisher. You get the idea.

In light of the way Chandler went from mulching lawns to get a fly rod to guiding 250 days a year at such a young age, we thought he might have some tips to offer reelers who might be interested in becoming guides.

It starts with a passion for fishing.

“Ever since I was at a young age, I’ve been super passionate about it,” he says. “I always used to watch Jose Wejebe, even when I was a little kid, and some of these other big names, like Chris Owens, Brian Jill, and Carter Andrews. Seeing what their lifestyles were [traveling and fishing], I thought, ‘I want my lifestyle to be that way.’ There’s just something about watching the sun on the water, that fish kick his tail, and the drag screaming. That’s something I just can’t get enough of. It’s like I’m hungry for it.”

Sustainability is also a big part of being a steward of the sport for Chandler.

“I hate killing fish so they can be mounted on the wall,” he says. “We need to practice better conservation now so that more young people will practice it, and get the message out across the world. That will make a big difference for future generations who want to work in this industry.”

“There’s so many young people these days who want to become a guide or live this lifestyle on the water,” Chandler says. “And if we don’t protect the fisheries, they won’t be able to do that.”

And you have to be willing to put in the work and pay your dues along the way.

“You’ve got to step on some toes,” Chandler says. “And go where the anglers go. I went to iCast the first time when I was fourteen. No one really showed or taught me anything up until now. I’ve learned a lot from others, but I basically taught myself. Do your research and study a lot — figure it out. Figure out how to be a good fisherman at the level you want to be at. Get on the Internet before you go on these boats and show them what you’ve already figured out and learned on your own.”

Even after doing all that research, though, you’re not likely to find an e-vite onto a boat in your inbox.

“Step on toes. Aggravate the shit out of people, you know?” Chandler says. “Demonstrate that you have the drive for it, and show them that you’re going to be at the dock at 5:30 in the morning and ready to go. If no one hires you, go to the dock every day at 6:00 in the morning when they go out, and be there when they get back, if you can. Over time, somebody’s going to eventually pick you up because they see you’re dedicated. There’s a lot of people who go out and drink at night and don’t show up for the boat the next day. So, your opportunity will surely come.”

Hitting the docks and industry shows is a great way to network, which is key to breaking into the industry.

“Make as many connections as you can,” Chandler says. “And if you burn bridges, mend them as quick as you can.”

For most folks who want to get into guiding, there are no short cuts.

“It’s not about the sponsorships or getting free stuff,” Chandler says. “It’s about having a dedication for it. Work hard and build your name, and over time, those things will come.

And if you want it, you have to go for it.

“For the younger kids coming up,” Chandler says. “This isn’t the easiest path in life, but it’s the most rewarding. And one thing I can say is never give up — no matter what.”

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Flycastergal: Allison Helen Hendricks

Allison Helen Hendricks’ father tied his own flies and made his own fly rods. He put one in Allison’s hands when she was five years old.

 

Despite her fly fishing legacy, she didn’t make a cast in her teens or much of her twenties. It was not until a decade or so ago, when she agreed to go fishing with a friend and heard the song of the fly line under load, that all that fly fishing represented to her — childhood, rhythm, the outdoors, her father — rushed back up her arms and welled in her body.

 

She had found, more like remembered, her calling. It was all Allison wanted to do.

 

“The sound of the fly line reminded me of being a kid. My parents’re both professional musicians,” she said. “And I could hear the rhythm and the pattern in the line. There’s music in it.”

 

Allison gave up her career as a surgical nurse and dedicated herself to fly fishing.

 

A native of Pennsylvania, Allison lived all over the country, including stints in Idaho and Indiana, before landing in the Tampa Bay area.

 

“I wade guide on the West Coast of Florida,” she says. “I’ll target a certain species if it’s what a client wants, but I just fish to fish, whether it’s in my waders, from a boat, or getting a bass to hit my fly on a freshwater pond.”

She also writes (she’s been published in Dun Magazine and elsewhere), teaches the art of fly fishing, and works with respected brands like Monic Fly Lines and RiverBum fly gear.

 

“I work hard for my clients and with companies in order to live the way I do,” Allison says.

 

She helped RiverBum redesign their women’s line of apparel, and she tests Monic’s fly lines.

 

“The way I fish, it’s not like being in a boat, the line is in the water the whole time. I can use Monic’s intermediate all day long, and it holds up under both inshore and offshore conditions — and that’s music to my ears.”

 

Photo by: haitorungfishing.com

Before moving to Florida, Allison guided for redfish out of Galveston, Texas.

 

“We don’t have exactly the same kind of fishery here,” she says. “But in Texas, we’d use a crab or shrimp pattern to target big reds. A Clouser pattern also worked well.”

 

As a wading fly angler, Allison sees more snook, permit, speckled trout and the occasional tarpon in the Tampa area. Unless she’s with a client, though, what’s on the end of her line doesn’t matter.

 

Photo by: flatlineguideservice.com

“For me, fishing equals family,” she says. “It’s a way to hold my father’s hand, God’s hand and to feel at peace.”

 

Now that Allison has come full circle and rediscovered her true calling, she doesn’t believe that she could ever return to how her life was before.

 

“I’ve never looked back,” she says. “I’m a joyous and happy person since I started fishing. Hearing the sound of the line… for a musician who never practiced music, it’s the most peaceful thing. Tranquil. Nothing can get to you out there.”

 

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Reeling In Amelia Island’s Treasures with Drake Bordnick

For the past three years, Drake Bordnick (@DBordyFishing on Instagram) has been a guide on Amelia Island — a spit of sand off Florida’s Atlantic Coast near the Georgia border.

Amelia has a long history of pirate occupation — Luis Aury, Jean Lafitte, Captain Kidd, Blackbeard — and tales of ghosts and buried treasure abound. But the only treasure you’ll find with Drake is the kind with fins and scales — although some flash silver or brilliant gold.

“Surf fishing, we get the occasional tarpon, as well as some redfish,” Drake says. “We also get pompano, bluefish, jacks and sea trout.”

No, Drake — in spite of having the name for it — is not a treasure hunter after Blackbeard’s hidden trove. Rather, he’s the only land-based fishing guide on Amelia Island.

“I started fishing when I was about three years old,” he says. “I was born in Detroit, and I started fishing with my dad for the first time after we moved to Baltimore — we moved around a bit.”

It wasn’t until they settled in Woodstock, Georgia that Drake discovered his true passion: Bass fishing.

Although he grew up with — and still loves — chasing largemouth bass, since his move to Florida, Drake has found a new quarry of choice.

“Peacock bass are my favorite freshwater fish,” he says. “They are pound for pound one of the toughest fighting fish out there.”

He just got back from a peacock bass excursion to Miami. Not only has he found a new fave — his tactics are about to evolve.

Until recently, Drake did all of his fishing from the shore.

“I just got my first boat, so I may start trying to fish some tournaments,” he says.

Drake doesn’t usually guide for bass, though. So, there are no immediate plans to change the business model for his guiding service.

“People come down here and they’re interested in learning how to surfcast or fish the backwaters,” he says. “There are plenty of guides who will take people inshore and offshore fishing. But land-based fishing is my specialty area.”

When it comes to saltwater fishing, there is nothing Drake would rather see on the end of his line than the shiny gold scales and distinctive spotted tail of a bull redfish.

“Bull reds are fun to fight,” he says. “They’re strong, strong. And they’re beautiful.”

When it comes to guiding, though, Drake loves to put his surfcasting clients on the tarpon when they’re running.

“It’s a lot of excitement for a potentially huge fish,” he says.

His personal preference for landing tarpon?

“I like to use a bone-colored, Heddon Super-Spook and just walk the dog,” he says. “I use Tica rods with a Piscifun reel, and I have no trouble with even the biggest tarpon.”

What keeps Drake on the water, though, is a deeper drive.

“I’m really competitive,” he says. “The mystery of what’s going to be the next I hook into keeps me going back out. Plus, making sure that our fisheries remain sustainable. That’s really important to me.”

Check out Drake’s fishing adventures on YouTube.

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Reelin’ in the Keys with Two Conchs Sportfishing

Captain Jack Carlson was born and raised on Marathon Key in South Florida.

“I’m a Conch,” he says, referring to the moniker Keys natives reserve for themselves.

Captain Carlson also has a serious fishing pedigree. Naturally, as a lifelong resident of the Keys, he’s been reeling his entire life. However, his father was a fishing guide in the Keys for 28 years.

And a couple decades ago, Captain Carlson followed in his father’s footsteps when he launched Two Conchs Sportfishing. Based in Marathon, Two Conchs currently runs a fleet of six boats.

“We’ll have ten by the end of the year,” Captain Carlson says. They currently run 39-foot, 36-foot and 34-foot Yellowfins, a 30-foot Mako and a pair of 26-foot Yellowfin hybrids.

Fortunately, all of Two Conchs’ boats weathered the hurricanes that pummeled the Keys last year.

“Our workshop took a beating,” Carlson says. “But we’re back up and running at 100 percent.”

The expanded fleet will include a 21-foot Bay Boat and a 17-foot technical skiff to get clients onto even skinnier water.

Carlson and his other captains already guide clients on the flats, putting them on redfish, snook, permit, bonefish and tarpon. Two Conchs also takes customers to reef wrecks and Gulf wrecks for species like yellowtail, grouper, snapper and cobia.

If you want to chase offshore pelagic species, such as sailfish, wahoo, marlin, tuna or dorado (dolphin/mahi mahi), Two Conchs can take you out to where they swim.

“We try to make sure clients have the best experience possible,” Captain Carlson says. “We take them out and put them on dream — or bucket list — fish.”

Clients can customize their own fishing adventures, or book one of Two Conchs’ fishing packages that include accommodations. They even offer a four-day fishing and hunting package that includes two days of fishing in the Keys and two days of wild boar hunting at a game camp in Central Florida.

All in all, Two Conchs keeps Captain Carlson pretty busy. I asked him if he had any time to fish for pleasure.

“Every day that I’m out in the boat with clients is fishing for pleasure,” he says.

It’s abundantly clear that Captain Carlson loves the Keys and revels in the enjoyment he sees in his clients when they’re fishing with Two Conchs.

“I love taking people out — old and new clients, alike,” he says. “I really enjoy helping them experience all that the Florida Keys have to offer.”

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Causwell: Building a family fishing (and outdoor) brand

Steve Weinstein runs the day-to-day operations of Causwell, a brand that specializes in bringing simplicity to fishing apparel and gear, in particular, and to the outdoor lifestyle, in general.

Steve is an avid fly reeler, himself. A native New Yorker, he chases stripers on the Connecticut coast and off the tip of Long Island. More recently, he’s turned his flies toward freshwater, as well.

When asked his favorite spot to fish, he doesn’t hesitate to name the Big Horn River in Montana.

“It’s gorgeous there,” he says. “And you don’t to have to put in a lot of effort to get the [brown and rainbow] trout to hit your fly.”

But Steve is so busy with Causwell, these days, that he doesn’t get out nearly as much as he would like to.

“Mike Schneider founded the brand and now runs marketing for Sundance Resort,” Steve says. “He’s stepped back from the day-to-day operations, so he gets out on the water a whole more than I do.”

Steve, on the other hand, has all the company’s operations to manage, along with their showroom in Alpine, New Jersey.

“When Mike founded Causwell in Salt Lake City, he wanted to bring all the colors and fun that you used to only see in snowboarding to ski gear and apparel,” Steve says. “But it quickly morphed into an outdoor brand.”

As it turns out, “most people were looking for layering pieces, and there were no young, fresh-looking brands in the space.”

So, Causwell focused its design energies on mountain, fishing and SPF-rated apparel.

“We wanted to make simple, comfortable stuff,” Steve says. “Simple cuts, simple graphics and clean looks. Most of the design work was done by Jason Eichhorst who also does design work for some of our other brands, like Surface Skis and Joystick.”

Getting younger people involved in the outdoors in one of Causwell’s major goals.

“Causwell is a fishing family brand,” Steve says. “Mike [Schneider] and his family are our biggest ambassadors.”

(Dane Ulsifer is another of their ambassadors — and the brand is always looking for others.)

To reflect the brand’s simplicity ethic, Causwell sells only tenkara rods. Tenkara is a Japanese style of extremely simple fly fishing.

“It’s just you, a line[, a fly] and a fish,” Steve says. “There is no reel and no fancy equipment. It’s a great way for kids to get started with fly fishing.”

Causwell will have 4-foot tenkara rods, geared for kids, back in the catalog this summer. Along with the 8 and 12-foot rods they already stock, the brand is also adding a 14-foot tenkara rod.

“The longer, stiffer rods are ideal for saltwater and swift-water fishing,” Steve says. “I can’t wait to try one out when the stripers are running.”

Also coming to the catalog is a basic accessory kit that will include flies and tippet for the tenkara rods.

As their fishing gear implies, Causwell is about “having fun in the outdoors without all the gadgets and stuff.”

“Causwell is about people being outside as much as possible and as comfortable as possible,” Steve says.

CHECKOUT OUR GIVEAWAY WITH CAUSWELL: https://reelerz.com/2018/05/6383/

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Kate Watson: Guiding the beautiful places

It’s the grizzlies that live in British Columbia’s interior that give Kate Watson (@katywat on Instagram) pause.

“The interior grizzlies hunt mammals like deer and moose,” she says. “But the coastal bears are just fishing like me. I’ve had a mama bear with cubs come out out of the brush not 15 feet from where I was fishing and just walk past me into the water. I just moved slowly out of the way. I’ve seen hundreds of bears on the coast, and they’ve never bothered me.”

And that’s probably because Kate guides in some of the most productive and beautiful fisheries in North America — there are plenty of fish for her clients and the bears, alike.

Growing up in British Columbia, the outdoors came pretty naturally to Kate. She was raised in a lodge and hunting camp that her parents owned. While her sister ultimately exhibited more interest in hunting, Kate’s love of the water caused her to gravitate toward fishing.

She would go out with her dad and by herself, just using “spoons and worms.” But when Kate was a teenager, her dad taught her fly fishing. At first, she struggled with single-hand casting.

“I just couldn’t get the rhythm right, my casts were off,” she says.

Later, she worked with her uncle and learned the two-handed Spey casting method. Once she was comfortable with Spey casting, Kate gave single-handed fly fishing another shot.

“Everything just clicked,” she says. Now she fly fishes almost exclusively, although if a client insists on using spinning or baitcasting tackle, Kate will accommodate them.

“But I always encourage them to try fly fishing,” she says. “I say, why not try just a few casts and see if you can’t catch a fish. They usually end up enjoying it.”

Although she most often uses single-handed casting when fishing or guiding, Kate still keeps her Spey casting skills sharp. This year she competed for the second time in the Golden Gate Angling Club’s “Spey-O-Rama” — The World Championship of Spey Casting.

How’d she do?

“I came in fourth place, which I am really happy with,” Kate says. “My overall distance was 473 feet.”

Clearly, Kate does much more than just cast for distance. She is a fly fishing instructor, ties flies and even writes for The Fly Lords, a site dedicated to the art and sport of fly fishing and passion for the outdoors.

She also chases fish.

Kate is now in her fourth year as a professional guide on her own, but she’s worked in camps for nine years. She spends much of the season — the summer months — putting her clients on salmon in some of the Skeena River’s tributaries.

In the spring, when the ice starts coming off, Kate guides anglers to the rainbow trout that teem in the smaller rivers of the interior, closer to her home in Prince George.

And late summer/early fall means the bull trout (char) start running. To reach the bulls, Kate and her clients often have to “heli in” to remote streams.

A big part of what drives Kate to keep fishing is where it takes her.

“Trout live in beautiful places,” she says. “You can be out there, in nature — sometimes by yourself, vulnerable to the elements, the weather, nature itself — and it’s just beautiful, so peaceful.”

“There’s just something different about fly fishing… all fishing really,” Kate says. “It brings you so close to nature.”

Visit Kate’s website to book a guided trip, learn about the instruction she offers or to order hand-tied flies.

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Chasing monsters with Brodie Sciberras

Brodie Sciberras is “a born and bred Aussie.”

Currently living in Perth, on Australia’s west coast, Brodie has been fishing since he was a youngster.

“When I was a little bloke, my granddad loved his fishing!” he says. “So it all started back then when he used to sneak me out of school so he would have someone to fish with.”

All the time Brodie spent playing hooky with his grandfather fueled his passion for reeling.

“Ever since those times its always been in my blood to get out on the water and chase the monsters in the deep,” he says.

And Perth is the perfect place from which to stage his monster hunts.

“Fishing the Perth waters always can turn up something awesome,” Brodie says. “But living in a well-populated city, there are alot of fisherman that get out and raid the oceans. So, any chance I get I love driving north a few hours and fish the warmer waters and the more untouched places.”

The thing that most excites Brodie about fishing is never knowing just what he’s going to reel out of the water.

“No matter what waters you could be fishing there is always the unexpected guest that shows up,” he says.

And even when he’s actually trying to target a particular species, things don’t always work out the way he planned.

“You could be fishing for whiting or you could be fishing for marlin,” Brodie says. “And whatever the bait or lure size you always seem to hook the smallest fish on the biggest lures and vise versa.”

If he was limited to a single bait or lure, though, Brodie’s go-to are “snelled hooks with a ball sinker for bait, or a soft plastic, pearl colour for lure.”

But since he has his entire tacklebox to choose from, Brodie changes things up pretty frequently.

“Every single time I head out I’ll try whatever,” he says. “If something isn’t working, then on to the next thing. If one thing works one day, it doesn’t mean it’s gonna work the next.”

And his trick for locating fish?

“Guesstimation,” Brodie says. “I have found I catch my biggest fish when the sounder is showing nothing.”

But no matter what you’re going after, Brodie says it’s all about patience.

“Time, time, time and more time,” he laughs. “Keep on going until you exceed your expectations. You’ve got to have the right baits and lures, and keep going day after day, hour after hour until you land that monster.”

And that’s the drive that keeps Brodie out on the water.

“If you tell someone that you’ve been been out on the water for 12 hours, made over 1000 casts, and landed one fish, people will look at you weird and think, ‘That doesn’t sound like that much fun,’” he laughs. “But it’s all about the thrill of what the next thing is gonna be. There is always something bigger and better out there. That’s why us fisherman will go out all day, everyday: To land something bigger and better — plus the bragging rights, of course.”

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Allison Helen Hendricks and the Music of Fly Casting

Allison Helen Hendricks’ father tied his own flies and made his own fly rods. He put one in Allison’s hands when she was five years old.

Despite her fly fishing legacy, she didn’t make a cast in her teens or much of her twenties.

It was not until a decade or so ago, when Allison agreed to go fishing with a friend and heard the song of the fly line under load, that all that fly fishing represented to her — childhood, rhythm, the outdoors, her father — rushed back up her arms and welled in her body.

She had found, more like remembered, her calling. It was all Allison wanted to do.

“The sound of the fly line reminded me of being a kid. My parents’re both professional musicians,” she said. “And I could hear the rhythm and the pattern in the line. There’s music in it.”

Allison (@flycastergirl on Instagram)  was trained as a musician herself, attending college to be a jazz vocalist and playing the piano for over 20 years, but she ultimately ended up in the medical field. She gave up her career as a surgical tech and dedicated herself to fly fishing.

A native of Pennsylvania, Allison lived all over the country, including stints in Idaho and Indiana, before landing in the Tampa Bay area.

“I wade guide on the West Coast of Florida,” she says. “I’ll target a certain species if it’s what a client wants, but I just fish to fish, whether it’s in my waders, from a boat, or getting a bass to hit my fly on a freshwater pond.”

She also writes (she’s been published in DUN Magazine and elsewhere), teaches the art of fly casting, and works with respected brands like Monic Fly Lines and RiverBum fly gear.

“I work hard for my clients and with companies in order to live the way I do,” Allison says.

She helped RiverBum redesign their women’s line of apparel, and she tests Monic’s fly lines.

“The way I fish, it’s not like being in a boat, the line is in the water the whole time. I can use Monic’s intermediate all day long, and it holds up under both inshore and offshore conditions — and that’s music to my ears.”

Before moving to Florida, Allison guided for redfish out of Galveston, Texas.

“We don’t have exactly the same kind of fishery here,” she says. “But in Texas, we’d use a crab or shrimp pattern to target big reds. A Clouser pattern also worked well.”

As a wading fly angler, Allison sees more snook, permit, speckled trout and the occasional tarpon in the Tampa area. Unless she’s with a client, though, what’s on the end of her line doesn’t matter.

“For me, fishing equals family,” she says. “It’s a way to hold my father’s hand, God’s hand and to feel at peace.”

Now that Allison has come full circle and rediscovered her true calling, she doesn’t believe that she could ever return to how her life was before.

“I’ve never looked back,” she says. “I’m a joyous and happy person since I started fishing. Hearing the sound of the line… for a musician  who never practiced music, it’s the most peaceful thing. Tranquil. Nothing can get to you out there.”

 

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Hookin’ Hogs with Herb

Herb Nagy has been fishing bass tournaments for more than a decade. A reeler all his life, Nagy got into tournament fishing when he gave up stock car racing.

“I like competition and I like fishing,” he said. “So, when I wasn’t racing anymore, I figured I could compete fishing.”

Although he worked in auto body repair for 30 years and could do much of the work himself, stock car racing was starting to eat away at the bottom line.

“People tell me how expensive bass fishing is,” he says. “I tell them they should try rebuilding a car every week.”

Tournaments and pleasure fishing have taken Nagy from Southern Texas to Northern Minnesota, and as far east as South Carolina.

“I was in Ely, Minnesota for 10 days, and we fished a different lake every day,” he recalled. “Fishing for smallmouth and walleye.”

The Independence, Missouri native still calls the Kansas City area home, and the Harry S Truman Reservoir is his home fishery.

“I call it Truman Lake,” Nagy says. “I like it because it’s mostly folks out fishing. Not too many jet skis, skiers, or pleasure boaters because of all the submerged trees.”

The trees protrude above the surface in many places: All that structure is bad for water skiing, but good for bass fishing. Which is something Nagy would like to do more of.

Over the past five years, Nagy’s been running bass tournaments for Anglers in Action and the Big Bass Bash — the latter of which attracts 4,000 anglers to its tournaments every year.

This year there will be four tournaments in the Big Bass Bash. Two will take place on Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri, one will be in Alabama in May, and they’ll hold another competition in Oklahoma in June. Reelers target largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted (Kentucky) bass, all of which count equally toward the weight.

“It’s a lot of work, but I enjoy it,” Nagy says. “I know all the guys from fishing with them.”

As much as he likes the work, Nagy would rather be out on the water with the other reelers.

“I’m trying to cut back, so I can do more fishing myself,” he says.

When asked how a reeler can get started with tournament fishing, the Bass Pro Shops pro recommends spending as much time on the water as you can.

“Nothing is better than just practicing,” Nagy says. “You’ve got to get out on the water.”

And out on the water — whether competing in a tournament or fishing for pleasure — is where Nagy prefers to be.

“It’s a break from reality,” he says.

And a break from realty. Nagy got his real estate license, so he’d have something to do outside tournament season.

“It gets a little slow in the winter,” he says.

All in all, though, Nagy would rather be on a boat.

“I just enjoy being in the outdoors. I like the peace and quiet.”

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Gabe Backhus: Big fish in a small pond

We all know the phrase, “A big fish in a small pond,” right? Well, Gabe Backhus has been a big fish all his life. And now he’s looking for more pond.

The 16 year old from Herington, Kansas has been fishing since he was two, when his dad would take him down to the 26-acre pond behind the family home. By the time he was four, Gabe was taking the four-wheeler (in low gear) down to the pond on his own.

But he was still too young to remove a hook, so every time he caught a fish, he’d put it in a bucket on the back of the ATV and drive it — rod, reel, fish, hook, and all — up to where his parents were watching. They’d take out the hook, and off he’d go again, spending an entire day fishing just like that.

He’s never really looked back.

Gabe’s mom, Mardee, says that even from that young age, he’s had an uncanny ability to focus. Most of his focus is now on bass fishing. And business. And basketball.

When he was 10, Gabe joined a youth fishing club and graduated from the pond to the much-bigger Milford Lake, near Junction City, Kansas. It wasn’t long before he proved to be the biggest fish there, as well.

At 13, Gabe bought his own bass boat so he could compete in more and bigger tournaments. How’d he do it? Raising, showing, and selling livestock in 4-H.

In 2015, he earned the top angler spot for the state of Kansas and was invited to compete in the TBF Junior World Cup on Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

How did he become so accomplished at such a young age?

“Experience. I’m self-taught. I figured everything out for myself. Other kids have parents who would tell them where to cast and what to use, but I learned on my own,” Gabe says.

That same year he started his own line of bass jigs and soft plastics: Double B Baits. He’d been making his own baits since his mom gave him plastic molds for Christmas in 2014.

They performed well. He added a few secret ingredients to make them perform better, and figured why not? Now he’s selling them locally and online; they’ll be in more than 16 local retailers and marinas by spring of 2018.

In addition to the new outlets he’s adding in the spring, the high school junior is also planning to bring a few new products to market, including a buzzbait and a spinner.

Gabe’s boat has been in the shop this year, but it hasn’t sidelined him. He’s been shorefishing and just received a kayak for his birthday. So, the local fish who thought they caught a break have something to worry about once again.

In his “spare time,” he’s on the varsity basketball squad and volunteers with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to conduct surveys of endangered species like the black-footed ferret and a tiny catfish known as the Neosho madtom.

He hopes to attend Kansas State University (don’t mention the Jayhawks) — where they have a top-ranked bass fishing team — and study either business, wildlife biology, or most likely, both.

I asked him if he had any tips for folks looking to hook a trophy bucketmouth, and Gabe’s simple words of wisdom were “Patience and confidence.”

Clearly, this is Gabe’s pond. And we’re all just lucky enough to live in it.