I was under the impression, for some goofy reason, that if you went to a Catholic school, the teachers were nuns in black habits who beat the crap out of your hands with yard sticks to keep you in line.
Don't know where that came from or why I believed that. Maybe it's one of those Freudian things.
Was invited to visit with the fishing club at Little Rock's Catholic High School last week. Didn't see any nuns. Met a very nice group of young men, all of them highly interested in bass fishing.
In fact, I was surprised at how interested and how knowledgeable these guys were about bass fishing.
Got me to thinking about what I was interested in when I was their age and how the opportunities had broadened in those years since I sat at a high school desk.
For starters, the Catholic High Fishing Team tries to meet one afternoon per week on the Arkansas River for an impromptu club derby (river flow and weather permitting).
In fact, the day I visited them, they were all headed out that afternoon for a few hours to sample the fall fishing on the river.
I expect they caught 'em pretty good, too. Wish I could have gone with them.
Not only did we not have a fishing club in my high school, I remember only a small handful of guys who were remotely interested in bass fishing, much less tournament fishing.
Most of us went fishing with our dad's or uncles, but it wasn't an all-consuming thing.
Girls, cars, music, chicks, cars, and chicks had a much higher priority than blazing around the pond chasing fish. Not to mention the fact that no one that I knew had a boat even remotely capable of "blazing around the pond".
Not much blazing happening with a 35 on the back of a 17-foot aluminum crappie special.
So I'm looking at these young Catholic High Rockets, I'm checking out their boats (some pretty nice rigs. Nothing spankin' new, but some very respectable bass fishing tools) and I'm thinking to myself "these guys are way ahead of the curve".
They are so far advanced in their fishing knowledge and skills, compared to where I was when I was their age, it's not even funny. What will this group be like in ten years? How many more are out there?
A lot. In talking with Coach Smith, the sponsor of the Rockets fishing club, there are several other schools in the area with clubs. Enough that they are starting to hold inter-school events. How cool is that?
This spread of clubs is not just at the high school level, it's really blooming at the college level and has been for several years.
Noticed how many teams competed at the recent College Bass National Championship? Try 37 from all over the United States. Check out the schools and results at www.collegebass.com.
Schools I had never heard of before; St. Ambrose, Faulkner University, Morehead State. These guys came from Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona, South Carolina, and many points in between.
Never heard of some of these schools before the College Bass derby. These college guys didn't just get an invite to show up; they had to make it through qualifying events to get to the Champion derby.
So here I am, a borderline redneck and former 09'er (it's a long story that includes southwest Little Rock, rednecks, and white collar workers. Actually, once an 09'er, always an 09'er) standing in front of and, quite frankly, in awe of a group of high school fishing club guys in their ties.
Yes, the nuns make them wear ties to school. Not really the nuns, but it's a uniform thing. It's a Catholic school, remember?
So here I am, standing in front of this group of guys, waiting for the nuns to show up with their yardsticks and whack the crap out of me, and I'm very impressed with what I see. I'm also impressed by the questions they are asking.
As I'm talking, I'm thinking (I can multi-task — sometimes) to myself "where would I be in the fishing world if I had started when these young men started?" Given the same opportunities these guys have today and a little less interest in girls, cars, and girls, where would I be now?
Not that I'm unhappy with where I'm at, but hey: A guy's gotta wonder.
The hardest aspect to get across to these guys was the fact that there are no shortcuts to the top. There are no magic baits that catch fish every time you drop the boat in the water. One of them wanted to know what they needed to be throwing on the river that afternoon.
Not just a crankbait, spinnerbait, jig; dude wanted to know that he needed to be throwing a 5/16 ounce Jewel Spider jig in color number 732 on the upstream tips of the jetties on the inside bends of the channel.
It's not that easy. We're casting to a moving target that we can't see in a liquid world which is changing by the minute. The bait you catch a limit on between 7 and 8 in the morning may not get a bite from 9 to 10. It's a changing thing, deal with it.
Best question of the afternoon: "How do we get to the top?"
My answer: "Fish. A lot. Fish every chance that you get fish. Fish every body of water that you can fish. Fish every tournament on every body of water that you can afford to fish."
Try to learn something, no matter how small or insignificant, every time you put the boat in the water. Keep track of what you learn, either in your head, on your laptop, or (old school) with a pencil and a notepad.
Learn not only about bass, but more importantly, learn the habits of what the bass eat. It all comes down to one pretty simple tenet: The guys who spend the most time on the water and understand what is happening around them are the guys who typically catch the most fish.
Two words — fish, learn.
I walked out of Catholic High that autumn afternoon with the sense that everything was going to be all right in the bass fishing world. Here is a group of young men who are eat up with bass fishing.
They aren't concerned with some derby organization changing the rules every time the wind blows. They aren't concerned with who's getting screwed over on sponsorship deals. They aren't concerned with scheduling conflicts or entry fees.
These guys are concerned with how to catch more fish. How to catch bigger fish. How to weigh in more than their classmates do during a three hour afternoon derby on the Arkansas River.
What's wrong with this picture? Absolutely nothing. Makes me want to go back to school, even if the school has nuns with yardsticks.
For more info on Kevin Short or to contact Kevin, check out his website at www.kfshort.com.