Another topic from the 30-day challenge is admiration. Writing about one person I admire or look up to in the outdoor world is so difficult. There are so many of them in the outdoor world. So many.
One who comes to mind is a man I was lucky enough to meet, and even interview, when he was being inducted into the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame. Greg Bohn, the innovator who brought us slip bobber fishing – I do not know what I can even say about him. I wrote a two-part series about him, the first of which was entitled, “Faith, Family and Fortitude, triangulating a fishing career.” Honestly, that is what he is all about. His faith is so strong, and his family bonds seem even stronger. I was able to meet his wife and daughters at his inauguration party. What a down-to-Earth and genuine bunch of people. I do not say that lightly.
My interview with Mr. Bohn was like sitting down with a good friend I had never met before. We talked about how guiding, and fishing, used to be, with him telling me more stories than I could ever remember. I will always cherish that time, and will likely never delete the recording of that interview.
Another who comes to mind is a very good friend of mine, who may not be too excited about me telling the world how great he is, but I will take my lumps for that. Again, he is a man with a great deal of faith and a super strong family. I first met Gregg Kizewski through my late husband. He struck me as a no-nonsense tournament director who was also such a genuine human being. He used to own Super K Jigs, and has since sold that business, but I learned so much about jig fishing from him while he owned the business. One thing about Gregg is he is always willing to help. I can text him with some random question whenever, and he always gets back to me with a real and helpful answer.
Gregg was also one of the most important people in my life when my late husband was sick. Rod was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and we fought that for two years. During it all, Gregg took Rod fishing on the opposite week of his chemo treatments, at least as long as Rod was strong enough to get into a boat. When Rod got too sick to fish anymore, he wanted me to keep fishing and told me to find someone to fish with that we both trusted. I did that, but when Rod was home on hospice at the end of his illness, I was not sure if I should fish. Gregg came over and sat with Rod for the entire day. I was happy it was one of his last lucid days and the two could talk. Later Gregg brought me the last jig Rod ever asked him to make, a design the two came up with together. That jig has a prominent place in my fishing room right now and forever.
Later, Gregg came over to help me with the boat. I had several problems that he was right there to help me with. After my husband passed, once Gregg had become a concealed carry instructor, I took his class and, again, he helped me with weapon choice and made sure I knew what I was getting myself into and how to conduct myself in situations that we both hope I will never be in.
Gregg is first class all the way, and again this year, I am looking froward to fishing his newly revamped bass tournament series, The Upper Midwest Bass Challenge Series (UMBCS).
That would bring me to the reason I fish tournaments today, my late husband Rod Gaskill. He taught me a great deal, but also let me learn so much on my own. I remember when we were running a Thursday night league, he let me make the decisions on the water for the first time. It was on the lake that is now likely my favorite lake, Mohawksin, but at the time I knew little about it. I picked a bay that looked like perfect bass habitat. Rod pulled in there and put the trolling motor down. He fished what I thought was going to be super-productive water.
“So, are you ready to go somewhere with fish?” he asked about 45 minutes later. He knew the bay we were in, and had fished Mohawksin for many years. He knew we would not catch any fish there, but let me figure that out for myself. Of course I slapped him, well, backhanded him in the arm, really, but I doubt he felt it. He just grinned at me and idled out of the bay.
Over the course of almost 15 years, he taught me so much about bass fishing, and about owning a boat in general. We bought a boat for me several years before he died: a 1985 Tuffy Maurader with a 50 hp 1963 Mercury on it. Now that he is gone, I wish I knew or could remember every single thing he told me. But we all know that never happens. A certain amount of information dies with everyone who leaves us.
All of these men, and so many more, are those that I admire in the outdoor arena. One thing I have learned is that I can always learn, and I will always find more people that I admire. I will likely get in trouble for this one, too, but my boyfriend Chet Netzel is one of those that I have admired for his fishing skills, which was how we originally met. In fact, he was friends with both Rod and I, and we fished a lot of the same tournaments. When Rod told me to find someone to fish with that he could trust to not do anything crazy on the water, and I told him Chet had asked me to fish with him, Rod was happy. He knew Chet was a good guy. I did not know, for quite some time, that there would wind up to be more to the two of us than just fishing together, but he was another person who never let me be alone with everything I was going through with Rod’s illness. As a friend, he cared more than I expected anyone to. As a fishing partner, I learned a lot from him, as our ideas are much different. While it is sometimes great to have two people in a boat who fish very different strengths but can still be friends, to me, the most fun I have is when I am learning about how other people fish.
How many people do I admire in the outdoor world? As I said, there are really so many. Hunters in pursuit of all types of game, anglers, small business owners in the outdoor world, and other journalists and outdoor writers who bring the outdoor world to the page and electronic screen.
Who do you most admire? I would love to hear your comments…