This adventure started a few weeks ago when good friend Aaron Hamilton called me. The call was kind of flattering but anyone that knows me can understand why he was calling. He needed someone to help with a little mentoring of a young man and his fishing skills. Son of a mutual friend Troy Merrill. When kids are involved, I am “all in” and even more so when it has to do with a sport so dear to my heart.
This young mans name is Brayden Merrill he is nine years old and even at such a early age has the love and passion like I have never seen in such a young person for bass fishing. I could tell after 30 minutes in the boat with him his parents Troy and Kim are raising him right and have planted the seed early. They should be very proud of themselves. Brayden will be the next KVD I’m pretty sure of this. Remember his name.
A little back story to set the stage.
Brayden and his team partner Michaela Schmidgall won the California Bass Federation’s Junior Angler State tournament at Don Perdo put on by Gold Country Bass Tour supporting the kids and this organization. By winning Brayden and Michaela won a spot in the Junior world Championship Tournament to be held this July on the Mississippi River in Illinois. They will be Representing not only California but every bass fisherperson in this state. How cool is that!
Yes you read that right these two are our State Champions !
This is a huge event, these kids and their parents are going at this wide open! The excitement is over the top and it is going to take a lot of work. I’ll bet Brayden is having problems sleeping every night….Big Dreams… Big Bass…. Big Stage !!!
So we all know my answer to Aarons request. HECK YA !! The mission was to help Brayden tune up some of his already very talented skills on a river system similar to the Mighty Mississippi.
As soon as I hung up the phone with Aaron I realized I’ll need help to pull this off and in doing so I turned to my tournament partner and good friend Charlie King for help.
Now Charlie has the same passion and drive I do, maybe more so for this sport. I didn’t even get half way though my sales pitch to him and he was ALL IN ! The questions came fast from him ……when…where… what ??? I could tell his excitement level was high, maybe even more than Brayden..
Charlie is connected to some of the bigger names in the sport and he proudly supports and promotes Okuma and all their great products, Fishlab and their fantastic line up of baits and not to forget RBBASS what a great group of guys… Charlie is running a top of the line Ranger all tricked out with top of the line Hummingbird electronics pushed along by a Mercury on the back and a Minnkota in the front, the power of the Kota cut thru the heavy weeds and cover with ease and made this day so so nice.. These companies are the ones that support the same thing we all love… please check em out if your looking or shopping. Thanks.
Charlie and myself have decades of time on the Dirty D so a plan was set. The excitement level was high as we all met up at Russo’s marina, a top rated resort and launch facility in the central delta. Really a nice place!
Knuckle bumps and back slaps were done as we loaded gear and got ready for the day. This kid has GEAR !!!!
We needed to work with Brayden on his punching/ flipping skills and frog fishing talents. Brayden has countless hours on the foothill lakes with a 8 1/2 lb big fish already under his belt but not much time on the delta where it should fish a lot like the Mighty Mississippi.
So with Pops Troy and Aaron bouncing around behind us in Aarons boat. It made me feel good knowing he trusted two complete strangers with his 9 year old son in a glitter rocket..but I’m sure being the great dad he is was watching every once in a while from between the tulies with binos..haha..or maybe he was just checking out our fishing spots, he did have a gps..LOL..Thanks Troy Merrill for your trust and I for one was honored.
We started off with Charlie and Brayden on the front deck going punch to punch in little pockets of tulies. I’m watching this kid as he fires cast after cast and I’m thinking he’s got what it takes…. he is good !!! Yes at 9 years old it was pretty cool to watch. At one point Charlie and I looked at each other and rolled our eyes in a WOW !!
It was pretty cool when Brayden steps over to the trolling motor pedal and says to Charlie.. I can do it ..and takes over the trolling motor working our way thru a maze of cover firing cast after cast at key spots. Charlie just stepped aside and we both enjoyed a little laugh.
As those two were working on skills with a bite here and there I was slinging a buzz bait out the back and getting a few slurps. So I tied my buzz bait on Braydens rod and it wasn’t long before a big kaboooom.. and a nice fish hits the deck with Brayden all grinning and announces my first buzz bait fish !!!
Fishing was a little slow over all but we did some teaching, talking, learned about swampy waterways and in general had a very enjoyable day with the bonus of catching some fish and of course Brayden being top stick on the buzz bait with most and biggest. This kid has game and you folks on the Mississippi are in trouble when this team rolls into town!
So my mission was completed and I need to say thanks to people that made me smile on this day.
Many many thanks to my friend Charlie for helping make more memories for all involved…your a good guy and a great supporter of this sport !
Troy and Kim you guys have a special kid there and I think it is so cool your going all in with him. Your doing it right !
Aaron what can I say… your heart is so big it won’t fit in a pick up truck bed.. thanks for all you do.
Gold Country Bass, staff and parents behind this, thank you for suppling a stepping stone for these kids to the big stage and to BASS for providing the stage to keep our kids, the back bone of this sport involved you are all very special people !
Keep in mind this adventure for Brayden and Michaela is not going to be cheap and there has been a go fund account set up to help them off set the costs of making dreams possible.
You know, you can’t put a price tag on dreams so if you can find a spot in your heart to help these kids with a couple bucks it would sure go a long way in making dreams come true and I would be very thankful.
Seeya all at the next adventure.