It’s A Red Ear Sunfish!

Chuck Bauer

Human dynamics are very interesting. Coming from a background in public speaking I have seen through the years the application and implementation of a few in each audience who really grasp the content and apply it to their everyday lives and career. Same thing in the fishing’ industry. I provide Big Bass Seminars to bass clubs throughout Texas and the rest of the country yet in observing those in each audience, only a few get that certain "gleam" or "spark" in their eyes. Chances are only a few of those really implement what they learn.

Yet, every so often a success story shows up. Be it Robin Crest who after applying a goal setting program reached further than ever before in her personal life, to Les Pratt, who after sitting in a Big Bass Seminar went out and caught a 7 pound bass on a swimbait, or to the latest success story of a young six year old boy who really has become quite serious in this wonderful sport of fishing’.

Meet Thomas Farmer. Kindergartner and fishing’ nut. Great kid, polite and respectful. Thomas’s father, Dwight supports his son’s love of fishing’. While surfing the Internet a few months back, Dwight found information about Flopper’s Fishing’ Academy and quickly enrolled Thomas as a participant. 

Thomas was one of 254 in attendance that day. I remember getting my photo taken with him. He had that spark in his eyes. He was happy to be a participant. Running from the casting station to the knot tying station with anticipation. Touching and feeling every type of bait that was on display. Looking at the 11 pound mounted Largemouth Bass. Father Dwight needed to have his track shoes on to keep up with him. There was something special about this young man.

Fast forward a month or so to the US Army Corp of Engineer Event at Lake Lewisville, Texas. I had a booth there and guess who shows up? That’s correct, Thomas and his father, Dwight. Because we are right at the water’s edge, Thomas took advantage of this and threw a buzzbait on my 8 ˝ foot Loomis rod coupled with a Shimano baitcaster. This six year old handled the bigger equipment with relative ease and experience. He even had his picture taken in the bass boat!

A few weeks later I had my monthly Big Bass Seminar at Bass Pro Shops. Guess what? Correct again, Thomas shows up dragging along Dad. And Thomas didn’t sit on the back row, he wanted to sit up front! Dwight and I had a previous conversation at the Corp of Engineer event about Thomas coming over to fish THE LAB.  I extended that invitation again and firmed it up.

The expected day finally arrived. Dwight and Thomas show up to fish THE LAB along with another friend of mine Rusty Robbins who is a member of The Colony Bass Club and who helps out with the Flopper’s Fishing’ Academies. Everyone catches fish and Thomas bangs out a 16 inch bass on a live crawdad. He is perched up on what we call the "49’er" bridge and he sets the hook and walks the fish around the side of the bridge to a nice landing at the edge of the shore. After having his picture taken, Rusty (who is retired) teaches Thomas how to "kiss" and release the bass. 

The bass fishing’ slows somewhat and Thomas switches his tactics over to catching bluegill. There is nothing better than observing a young boy who cast after cast catches and releases many fish. I’d venture to say that if we were counting, Thomas caught between 35 and 50 fish. What was even better was watching three grown adults having a blast watching this young man catch fish after fish. The fun continues as a very good friend of mine and neighbor, Kyle Nelson, shows up and joins in on the fun. In real life Kyle plays B.J. in the Barney television series. Kyle proceeds to share his Barney experiences with Thomas however Thomas stays very focused on his fishing.

A few weeks later I walk THE LAB and in observing the canal, there are bluegill everywhere. Most are close to the waterfall and the others are hugging the shoreline which is almost inaccessible by humans. Occasionally I see three to four smaller bass cruising and every once in a while getting set up on a herd of bluegill. The bass are a dead give away as the bluegill will be pretty dormant then all of a sudden they start moving. When you see a big splash up along side of the bank, you know that a bass just finished a hearty bluegill meal. I walked up to the "Jay" bridge (the bridge is named after Mark Brown’s son, Jayden) and saw something that I had never seen before.

Standing on the "Jay" bridge looking towards the main pool side, were hundreds of bluegill migrating towards the canal . . . and coming from both sides of the main pool. If you see pictures of THE LAB, the main pool starts right at the Jay bridge and under the bridge it gets very narrow and goes into the canal. Imagine standing on a small bridge looking down and on the both sides you see hundreds of bluegill migrating. Unbelievable! I stood completely motionless and watched the feat being served up by Mother Nature for about five minutes. Every hundred or so that cruised by was another amazing sight - many 10-12 inch bluegill. Where in the heck are these fish the rest of the year? In the deeper water of THE LAB hanging out? Holy cow! This steady progression lasted for at least five minutes then it trickled down with fewer fish.

I called Dwight and advised him of what was happening at THE LAB and now the water was clear enough for Thomas to actually see some bass cruising and chasing bluegill. Dwight indicated they would be right over.

Dwight and Thomas arrived and the first thing I noticed was Thomas was out of the truck (while Dad was still gathering gear!). He was walking the shoreline with his POLARIZED GLASSES on! It is evident that Thomas had listened to the information at Flopper’s Fishing’ Academy. Thomas was able to observe the huge herd of bluegill and spotted an occasional bass. He was able to see and hear the big splash along the shoreline indicating a bass had just taken a bluegill. Thomas’s first notable catch of the day was a 17-inch long largemouth which I believe is his largest to date. As Dwight puts it, "Thomas looked like he was battling a marlin" landing that bass. Not only was the bass his largest, but he caught it on a 8 ˝ foot long Loomis rod with a Shimano baitcaster . . . remember, Thomas is SIX years old. 

Next came the bluegill with Thomas banging’ one after another. I told Thomas that I had seen some bluegill that went at least ten inches cruising into the canal. Well, Thomas finally spotted one and worked on that dang big bluegill for about 30 minutes. The challenge was that every time Thomas had thrown out his line, a smaller bluegill would take his worm!

Now the next part of this story is pretty amazing. We had told Thomas at the fishing’ academy to use a very small piece of worm to catch bluegill. A technique that he obviously had mastered. Yet, he wasn’t catching that big one! Thomas, on his own accord, decided to change things up and placed a whole worm on his small hook. Well, you guessed it . . . the bigger meal enticed the big bluegill to strike and Thomas yelled out that he had it, as he masterfully reeled the big bluegill up on the grass. We measured the bluegill and it was just a tad over the ten inch mark.

I remarked that was a HUGE bluegill and Thomas replied back that it was not a bluegill but a R E D - E A R sunfish! (Dwight tells me that Thomas has a fish identification chart at home and studies it faithfully!) I continue to call the fish a "bluegill" and Thomas continues to remind me that it is a Red-Ear Sunfish! Okay Thomas, maybe I am the one that needs the fish identification chart! Dwight took many photos on the regular camera and on his video camera as well. Thomas, practicing catch and release, released the fish back into THE LAB. 

Another great day of fishing. Thomas bangs out two records for himself, a 17 inch long Largemouth and a 10 inch RED-EAR sunfish. A smile on my face shows up every time I think about this young angler and how much fun he is having. Yes, students listen, learn and implement. Yes, we are handing off our wonderful sport to this future angler. Yes, I’d say the future looks very promising to this fine young boy who has a "gleam" in his eyes!

About the author:
Chuck Bauer is a noted Big Bass Specialist. Since 1997 he has caught, certified and released 139 bass over 22 inches in length. He has been recognized many times by various organizations, including In-Fishermen Magazine, Bassin' Magazine, Texas Fish & Game, North American Fisherman Magazine, Outdoor Life, Texas Hunting and Fishing News, Big Bass Record Club, Bass Pro Shops and The Dallas Morning News.

Chuck is a member of the National Speakers Association, he gives monthly "Big Bass" seminars at Bass Pro Shops and he is on Pro Staff for Kick 'N Bass®. He is a featured outdoor writer for many fishing related Internet websites. Chuck travels all across the U.S. presenting his "Big Bass" and "Flopper’s Fishing’ Academy" seminars which are in high demand.

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