Fishing Tip / Report from Pro Angler Cody Kelley.
The competitive fishing world is a small one, and when narrowed down to the competitive bass fishing world it is even smaller in the grand scheme of things. This of course, isn’t to say that this small group doesn’t have an absolutely huge impact. From the outside looking in, it is easy to see the flashy trucks, boats strewn with LED lights all over, and celebratory screams whenever a fish is hoisted over the gunnel of a boat (not knocking any of this, because let’s face it, who doesn’t like to see a 5 lber get boat flipped!). To be completely honest, those things were about all that I saw when I first began pursuing a goal to reach the Tour. In my mind, a professional angler’s day went something like: Wake up, fish, weigh in, interviews, re-tie, and get some sleep before day two (and hopefully 3 &4). For a small few, this might be the case, however for most it isn’t even close! Something that truly sets professional bass fishing apart from any other sport, is the accessibility to the athletes. Anyone can walk right up to any of the anglers in the mornings or at weigh-ins. With this type open format comes something great; the ability to do more than catch and weigh fish.
As anglers in the public eye we are instantly given an opportunity to help, influence, and motivate thousands of people. As an example, this year I have been blessed to have to chance to travel the country representing Special Olympics of Arkansas to raise awareness for all of the absolutely great things that the organization does. Getting to work beside the athletes is truly inspirational and something that completely changes your outlook on your day-to-day life. Giving back to a group like Special Olympics is only way one way to use the platform that FLW provides to give back. Everywhere we go, there are kids soaking in every word spoken and every action of the FLW anglers. This goes for all anglers. It doesn’t matter if you are a High School angler or a full time Tour pro. When you put on your tournament jersey for the day, you instantly have the ability to influence tomorrow’s fisherman. I believe that the rapid growth of the sport is an amazing thing to be happening, but think that it is important for all of us to realize the effect we can have on the younger crowd just by taking a second to talk with them. Maybe it is a quick high five at the boat ramp, or stopping and asking what their biggest bass ever weighed (90% of the time they swear it was bigger than Dads!). I know that many of you reading this (myself included) were most likely inspired by an older angler when you were younger. Maybe this person wasn’t a professional, or even a tournament angler, but when you’re 5 years old and see someone in that nice flashy boat catching scores of fish, they seem like the best on the lake and you instantly want to be just like that person. FLW does a fantastic job of connecting the anglers with the community while we are at events. Just having a few anglers take the time to go speak with kids at a local school has a lasting impact that many do not know. I could not imagine how many people could be reached if all FLW members began taking a little time to reach out to their community, and many do this already. Anyone who has ever volunteered with an organization definitely knows that there are countless ways to help. Call your local Game and Fish group to find where fishing derbies are being held. Stop by for an hour to interact with some of the contestants. Many high schools have fishing clubs now and are more than happy to have a tournament angler come and speak with the kids about lessons learned while competing. No matter what it may end up being, there is no doubt that a small amount of our time given to back to the community always has an impact greater than what we could imagine. So as this group of fishermen competing for the win, let us not forget about who and what made us realize that we could achieve our goals. Take that little extra time to talk with kids, spectators, or the newcomers. I promise that it all comes back to you and the industry in the end. Who knows, maybe that kid you gave that high five to will be tied up beside you at the dock one day, and that’s when you know that it really was all worth it, and you know you were more than just a fisherman.
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