Kenneth Kieser: Mom loves fishing with her kids

Staff Writer
The Examiner
Jace painfully holds a big bass while his sister Dani watches.

Seven-year-old Jace Thompson cast out his piece of hot dog under a bobber and let it settle close to the bottom. The 7-year-old fishing enthusiast took a couple of reel turns before setting the hook into a big bass.

The young man immediately realized that he had hooked into something big, probably his intended target, a big channel catfish. The fish made several deep runs and suddenly came to the surface and jumped. Sunlight reflected off the shiny green scales of a big bass.

Jace tried to remember what family members had told him about holding the rod tip up and letting his reel’s drag do the work. The bass was taking line and there was little more he could do but hang on. Finally, regaining some line was possible after the good fish’s energy started to run out.

The 4-pound bass made a couple more sweeping runs before the young man lifted up his biggest bass ever – in several years of fishing or since he graduated from diapers.

His mother and veteran angler, Stephanie Thompson, smiled from down the bank. She may have been thinking about fishing with her family years before or maybe felt the pride of watching her young son land a good fish.

Later that morning Jace hoisted up a good bass his grandmother, Marilynn Meade Shanline, caught for a photo while his 4-year old sister, Dani, watched with mixed emotions. She may have been impressed by the good bass, but more than likely she was amused by the grimace on her brother’s face when his thumb dug into bass teeth, small but sharp.

Photos finished, Jace disappeared down the shore to better cover where another big bass might be waiting for an easy meal.

“I want my children to fish with me,” Stephanie said. “This is a good, clean sport and they love our trips out here in the beautiful country.”

Her husband, Eric Thompson, fished when he could but spent a lot of his time helping everyone with some of the tasks fishing creates. He, too, was grateful to see his kids having a good time outdoors.

Dani gets bored with fishing very quickly and then goes exploring, always in sight of her parents. There are many exciting things to see on a pond or lake shore, including an occasional snail, big bullfrogs, crawfish, dragonflies and maybe even a sunbathing snake.

These are the worst of times for children, especially those old enough to visit social media or even watch the evening news where gloom and doom are the main headlines. Kids have never needed the outdoors more.

Jace walked down the shore and soon set the hook into a 2-pound bass that made the mistake of taking his plastic worm. The fish made a couple of good runs before giving up. Soon another bass and another were caught and released. The young man has the bass-fishing touch that could pay off financially years from now.

Bass fishing is more than a casual sport these days. High schools have bass fishing teams that prepare students for bigger things. For example, bass tournaments pay big money and colleges have bass tournament fishing teams. College fishing has grown considerably over the past 25 years.

The first college bass fishing tournament happened in 1992 between Purdue University and Indiana University. Now, there are an estimated 610 college bass fishing teams in the United States, a number that varies because some teams have dissolved while new teams are being formed.

Bethel University, located in McKenzie, Tennessee, was the first school to recognize bass fishing as an organized sport, divvying its budgeted scholarship monies out among angling and traditional athletes in 2009.

This advanced thinking raised Bethel’s bass fishing program up a notch, and gave the school the opportunity to recruit some of the nation’s finest young anglers. The school has constantly placed in the three largest collegiate circuits – Bassmaster, Cabela’s and Fishing League Worldwide (FLW).

Jace could someday compete for a college, or he might become a doctor who loves to fish. There are no rules or age limit for enjoying a day's fishing.

But for now, the Thompsons just want to enjoy fishing with their children. College is over a decade away and the family enjoys being outside.

Jace loved to learn new ways to tie on a hook or various methods to get the best from certain kinds of lures while most kids his age have yet to graduate from fishing with live worms.

He is not shy about asking family members like his uncle Chris Shanline question after question about anything connected with catching big bass. The veteran bass angler enjoys fielding these questions and knows Jace is an outdoorsman in the making.

Stephanie knows chances are the family will continue fishing together years after college. Perhaps she will introduce her grandchildren to dipping worms for bluegill or catfish before they, like Jace, discover the joys of landing bigger fish.

I can’t imagine a better legacy.

Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at