My 240 Triton LTS was six hours behind schedule. It was being wrapped with my new title sponsor, Plano Tackle Systems, for the 2009 Redfish Cup series, and I needed to kill some time. Unfortunately, I was hundreds of miles from my home town, in an area that I was not familiar with, in Fort Meyers, Fla.
I searched my GPS and, only eight miles away, a Bass Pro Shop awaited my arrival. "How convenient," I thought. One of the largest retail tackle shops in the nation was only eight miles from my destination.
My truck was already full of tackle. I didn't touch 90 percent of it during the tournament, but if those crazy redfish in Punta Gorda wanted something special, I certainly had it. So why would I need to visit a Bass Pro Shop?
First of all, as I just stated my boat was behind schedule and I needed to kill some time. But the truth is, if I knew it was there I would have gone anyways. I truly believe that I am addicted to tackle shops as it is just so hard to pass one up. I never really need anything when I enter them — just come by my house and I will show you why — but I always leave with something. I probably will never use that "something," but the fact remains if I ever need it, I will have it.
My wife Lori was riding along for the trip and had the opportunity to visit Bass Pro with me. Believe it or not she is actually a Bass Pro freak. I don't quite know why, probably just the shopping genes, but she actually keeps track of how many she has been in (14). Cool little knick knacks for the lodge or the house can be found, and I point them out every time we come close to one.
We entered the store, browsed through the knick knacks and I slowly gravitated towards the fishing section. I found tons of baits, lures, rods, reels, tackle, line, flies, hats, and much more. Again, I probably have at least one of everything at home (or in my truck) already, so why would I need more?
Don't laugh because it's the same reason you go to the shops and you know it, but there must be a new color here that the redfish can't resist. You know, it's pretty cool the more I say that the more I believe it, but most importantly, my wife believes it (she probably does the same to me when we go to Target).
Here I was just gawking at the baits — at least that's what Lori said, obviously she was exaggerating. As I was looking at some of the stick baits, standing right next to me was a young man about eight or nine years old. My wife must have had this young boy and me mixed up, as this kid was the one "gawking" at the baits. About 20 feet away, a woman was standing, watching this young man. Being as sharp as I am, I figured this must be his mother.
"Are you his mother? Mind if I talk to him?" I asked.
"I wish you would," she said, "cause I have no clue what I'm looking at here."
"Hey little man, what's your name?" I asked him. "Declan," he quickly responded. "Whats yours?"
I introduced myself and explained I was in town with the Redfish Cup for a redfish tournament up in Punta Gorda. I said I was just visiting Bass Pro so my wife could shop for knick knacks and out of the corner of my eye I saw his mom roll her eyes and grin. I wondered if, at the age of eight or nine, he used that excuse as well. They can't be that sharp at that age.
One thing was sure — Declan was sharp, as the reason he was at Bass Pro was because he had just made the honor roll and, because of that, he was awarded $15 from his parents to spend on whatever he wanted. Like the bright young man that Declan is, he choose to buy some fishing lures.
"Mister," he asked, "you know a lot about fishing and fishing lures?" "Well Declan, when the fish bite I feel that I do, when they don't I'm not so sure."
"Hey Mr. Mike I know what you mean. That's why I'm here. I need some new baits to catch bass on by my house. I like those broken back minnow looking things he says. Caught a few on those before," Declan said.
This kid was as serious about this as you could only imagine.
For 30 minutes I stood by his side and we looked at nearly every bait on that isle. From stick baits to crank baits to top waters — you name it we looked at it. We talked about what ones would work under different situations and conditions.
From the questions he asked and the statements he made, I knew that this young man was special. He was a true fisherman at such a young age. It brought back memories of both my sons, Stephen and Michael, and how intense they were at his age and how intense they still are about the outdoors. This kid was awesome to speak with.
"We have $15, or I should say you have $15 to spend here, cause you did so good with your grades at school," I said.
"Yep that's right Mr. Mike and you're going to help me."
We went over several baits and I showed him how some were made the same but they were different prices which ultimately meant that if he shopped properly he could wind up getting more baits for his money. I hope he never finds out how many baits I have purchased over the years by impulsive buying, but he truly is on his way as the one he liked best was the one that looked the coolest.
We finally narrowed it down to three or four baits and then the loaded question came.
"Which one would you buy Mr. Mike? I'm going to buy the ones I like and one that you like." I pointed to the one I would use and he grabbed it.
"C'mon Declan it's time to go," I heard his mother tell him.
For twenty minutes my wife and Declan's mother had been in conversation letting the two "boys" have their fun.
"Your dad is getting off of work and will be looking for you soon."
"Yeah I know mom we need to go," Declan said. "Thanks Mr. Mike this has been just awesome."
I did not tell him then, but Declan if you ever read this, it was awesome for me as well.
It was then I told his mother, if you bring Declan to the weigh-in on Saturday afternoon I will bring you up on stage when my son and I weigh our fish in.
His eyes opened wide and looked straight at his mother. "Can we?" he asked
"I don't know, we will see," she answered. We said our goodbyes and parted ways.
"That was pretty neat," I told my wife and she agreed. The week went on with pre-fishing, Net Gains, and finally the first tournament of the year for 2009 of the Redfish Cup season. It was the second day of the tournament and we were weighing our fish in and I looked to my right and there was Declan, his brother and his Dad standing in the crowd.
They drove over 60 miles to watch the weigh-in and, true to my word, I went down and brought Declan and his brother up on stage and introduced them to the crowd. As great as the crowd was and always has been in Punta Gorda the reception for these two young men was awesome.
Capt. Mike Frenette and his son, Michael, brings Declan and his brother onto the Redfish Cup stage.
When we stepped off the stage, their dad was the first to greet me, hand extended. As he shook my hand he said, "Mike you don't know how much this day has meant to my son and how excited all week he has been. I am amazed that you actually took him and his brother up there." As I told the crowd, these kids are the future of the sport. We all need to be involved with kids and there is no better way than to spend it outdoors.
We talked for a few minutes, took some pictures, and my son Michael and I signed both of our hats and gave them to Declan and his brother. Then it was time to go.
As they were walking away, Declan looks over his shoulder and tells me, "Mr. Mike, I still haven't caught one on the bait you picked, but I did catch one on mine!"
That's why I refuse to appear on the show "Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?"