July 25, 2019 by Curtis Niedermier
There were more than a dozen FLW pros in attendance for the first round of lakeside seminars at the Costa FLW High School Fishing Campthis morning. But within the crowd, chances are high that there are at least a couple dozen more future pros among the 230 high schoolers who traveled to Kentucky Lake to attend the camp.
It’s clear from the level of knowledge and experience the campers have exhibited during the seminars that these are some of the more accomplished high school anglers in the country. Their dedication is obvious, too. Campers came from as far away as Nevada, California, Vermont and even Montreal.
This week, they’re hoping to learn critical skills that’ll take their fishing and possibly fishing careers to the next level.
Summer camp seminars cover topics ranging from electronics use to practice strategies, angler ethics to fish care. But beyond explaining the nuts and bolts of tournament fishing, the pros hosting the seminars are approachable and have made themselves available to answer a lot of questions and just offer sound advice.
Nearly every camper here has the goal of one day being a pro angler. That includes Ryan Park, a recent high school graduate from Plainfield, Ill., who’ll be attending Murray State University in the fall.
“I have been fishing since I was about 3 or 4 years old and tournament fishing since I was a freshman in high school,” Park says. “I remember my first tournament. I didn’t catch a single bass, but I loved it so much. It was an absolute blast. I knew that’s what I wanted to do for maybe my whole life just after that first one.”
For Park, the highlight of camp so far has been the opportunity to learn directly from the pros. Before lunch, he spent time in the boat with Brandon Hunter and Brad Knight learning about Lowrance electronics and learned fish care and fizzing techniques from Luke Dunkin. He’s also proud of the more than $1,400 worth of free fishing swag that was handed out to every camper at yesterday’s registration.
“It’s been amazing. I don’t know what I expected coming down here, but what I’ve found is these pros are so open to talk with you about everything, and to share so much knowledge,” Park says. “And the way we’ve been treated by the FLW staff and the vendors here, it’s been an unbelievable experience. I’ve talked to Brad Knight, Bryan Thrift, David Dudley, Tom Redington – the guys I’ve looked up to my whole life and watched on FLW and seen in the magazines. In talking with them in person, they’re such great guys. We’ve had heart-to-heart conversations about fishing. I can’t believe it.”
Tom Redington partnered up with Bradley Hallman and Todd Castledine to discuss the important subject of boating etiquette in the “Golden Rule class.” The Texas pro says he’s impressed with the attitudes of the campers.
“This is the second year in a row, and it is bar none the best camp,” says Redington. “You can tell by the questions they ask, it’s not total beginners and it’s not people who think they know it all. They are here to soak it up. It’s a good group, and all the people who are teaching look forward to it. It’s fun, interactive, just like talking fishing with your buddies.
“Bradley Hallman said, ‘Literally, if we had this when I was in high school, I would’ve walked from Oklahoma to do it.’ It was only part hyperbole. I would’ve given anything to have this. I got one or two magazines when I was a kid. I’d get them eight times per year. My brother and I would read them and then just go try to figure it out on our own. Of course, they have access to YouTube, all the shows and FLW Live now, but to actually sit down and pick the brains of some of the best in the business is another level. Like Bryan Thrift talking about finding fish; I want to go listen in on that seminar.”
This year’s Costa FLW High School Fishing Summer Camp includes 300 campers – 230 students and 70 adults. Classes continue on Friday with a visit to the FLW operations division headquarters for a half-day session focused on fishing careers, before returning to the lake for more seminars with the pros. On Saturday, campers have the option to participate in an FLW Foundation benefit tournament on Kentucky Lake.