I was king of the river, all the freedom an 8-year-old boy could ever dream of at the wheel of Pop’s pontoon boat chugging down the Emory river to our favorite fishing hole.
It didn’t matter if it was bream or bucket mouths biting at the end of the line it was exactly where I wanted to be.
I spent most of my summers growing up in East Tennessee on the river with my Pop or catching crawdads and shell crackers in the ponds and streams at Great-Granny's. My old man was a bass fisherman, spending every second of his free time dropping markers, loading roll after roll into that paper graph fish finder in search of the next rock or tree holding the lunker that was going to win the tournament.
I will never forget the smell of the 2-stroke exhaust, the only light you could see were the green and red navigation lights of the dozens of bass boats floating in the darkness waiting for that flare gun to go off. Thousands of horsepower would erupt like a top fuel dragster as everyone rushed to their favorite structure buried beneath the Tennessee River.
Looking back, I had no idea I was developing a passion for the outdoors that I would carry with me the rest of my life. That was 30 years ago and Pop’s pontoon is long gone, Dad spends most of his time on a tractor or catching fish out of one of those East Tennessee ponds and I am certainly no pro angler.
But most Saturday mornings there is a good chance you will find my kids and me on a river or lake casting out shiners or crawlers trying to find out what is lurking beneath that tannin-stained Florida water. I want to make sure my kids have the opportunity to have the same experiences I did as a boy. Get them off that tablet so they can feel the freedom of being king of the river.
You see, it’s not about the fish, the boat, and the fancy rods. It’s about time; time spent with our friends and family making memories that will be shared down the road. Inspiring a new generation of outdoorsmen and women is a legacy all of us should be proud to leave behind.