FLW Pros: Role Models and Teachers - Major League Fishing

FLW Pros: Role Models and Teachers

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What it was like sharing the tournament-fishing lifestyle with Arkansas youth
May 4, 2016 • Eric Jackson • Angler Columns

Kids are growing up in this era needing to be more entrepreneurial than generations before to succeed in the job market, or in general. Schools are recognizing this, but are still generally fashioned in the same manner as 50 years ago: to prepare students for college and then a “job” that may or may not be there.

Progressive schools such as Westside Elementary in Rogers, Ark., recognize the need to introduce kids to alternative ways of supporting themselves and achieving success.

Certainly being a professional fisherman is quite out of the norm and requires entrepreneurial skills that would apply to just about any career. FLW has recognized that its membership is filled with successful professional fishermen with differing backgrounds and approaches to the sport and career. In the spirit of giving back to the community, FLW has been scheduling pros to visit, speak to and interact with kids at each Walmart FLW Tour tournament. I was honored to help at the Beaver Lake tournament as a rookie along with seasoned tournament pros Charlie Evans, Troy Morrow and Jay Kendrick.

Each pro gave a five-minute synopsis of his career and how he got there, with the messaging focused on the theme that being a self-starter and making the personal commitment toward the direction they want to go can allow them to be anything they want to be. The kids were mostly attentive and very enthusiastic during each presentation.

My story was a bit about how I became a professional kayaker and ultimately came to start Jackson Kayak (now we have Orion Coolers as well) and then decided to re-invent myself by starting my professional fishing career at age 51.

My key points:

  • Nobody in my family or circle of influence EVER suggested that I become a kayaker or professional fisherman. In fact, it was discouraged by those closest to me who wanted me to get my degree in engineering and get a job doing that so I could kayak recreationally. Kids need to know that they can do great things, but not by following marching orders given to march on an ordinary path.
  • There are many ways to do the same thing. Doing things your own way, in a way that you enjoy and are good at, is the easiest and most likely to work. “Be yourself” was basically the way the message was delivered.
  • Learn to learn, learn to find out things and go find out things. While education is key, knowing how to get answers to every question you have is critical. If you want to be a professional fisherman, ask a professional fisherman how he did it, look it up online, read about others who did it, etc. Teachers don’t know how, but they can teach you to find out how.

After we gave our presentations, it was show-and-tell time. We spent 45 minutes showing off our boats and tow vehicles and set new records for the most people in a Ranger at one time. The kids really lit up once they started playing with the electronics and sitting in the driver’s seat.

I don’t imagine that all of the kids will consider our visit to be life-changing, but I hope that the time spent will open up some minds to consider a broader world out there. And perhaps we’ll see at least one of the kids on the FLW Tour list in the future.

Meanwhile, does anyone else miss recess? And why didn’t any pros visit my school? I wanted to be a pro fisherman when I was a kid, but I had no way to know how or that it was possible and waited for cues from friends, family and teachers that I never received. Oh well. Better late than never.