We Love to Fish

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story and photos courtesy Rob Lever – We Love to Fish

What would be your perfect day on the water? This is a question that most of us ponder as we go through our fishing career. Spending close to 150 days a year on the water has made me very jaded to what could possibly be a great day. As an avid tournament angler, I am always searching for a big limit of five fish. Over time I have taken for granted quality fish that would make most people just happy to catch. This came to head earlier this year during a tournament.

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During the first 15 minutes of my day, I was able to put two solid fish in my well and casted out for another. In my head, I was on the pattern that I had practiced so hard to achieve. Was this perfection? Turns out, the next cast I hooked what I thought was a monster. Line stripping off my drag got my heart rate jumping until I saw what I had. After a lengthy fight (which scared most of the small school of bass that I was chasing away) I landed my first ever northern pike.

Later that afternoon, after finishing a disappointing third place I was forced to think of what went wrong. The only explanation I could come up with was that I shouldn’t have wasted my time on that pike. Why didn’t I just cut the line when I knew it wasn’t a bass? This was all I could think of over the next couple of days. I was officially burnt out from fishing.

Beat up, and discouraged from the weekend events, I went to work on Monday. During the week, I go from a fisherman to an IT guy. Working in the IT field brings new challenges that keep you on your toes, as well as giving you new tasks every day. Until recently I worked doing service on the road. Being on the road had its ups and downs, but I loved every minute of it. This all changed after the birth of my daughter, Maggie. I would leave very early in the morning and wouldn’t get home until later in the evening. It was very hard for me, but I left a job that I loved and decided to go work in an office doing IT support. This was a tough decision, but an unbelievably rewarding one. The company I went to work for is Road to Responsibility Inc.

Road To Responsibility, Inc. (RTR) was founded in 1988 with the overarching belief that individuals with developmental, emotional and behavioral challenges deserve to have full, rich and rewarding lives in the community. Our philosophy is: Making Lives Better… One Person at a Time.

Working for RTR has not only let me keep my career in IT, but also let me share my passion for fishing. This year I have started a program for the individuals at RTR. the program, we Love to Fish gives an individual one day on the water bass fishing. The program has become a big hit with not only the people I can bring out, but also me. It has lit a fire in me like nothing has before. I knew I would like to share my passion on the water, but never realized I would get more out of this trip than the person I took fishing.

Our first trip was a day that will never forget. All of the weather reports called for sunny, 80 degree temperatures with no chance of rain. I met my guest at my office and introduced myself to him and his aide that would be on the boat with him. They were to follow me to the launch site and watch me put the boat in the water. This was in hopes of making the guests comfortable with the idea of being on the boat.

Once on the road I noticed a very dark cloud over a small area close to where we were driving. Of course, once we launched the boat and made our first cast that cloud came right over our boat. Almost like a scene from a movie, it started to pour cats and dogs. I asked my guest if he wanted to get off the water, and he looked at me and emphatically said “I want to catch fish”. This is saying a lot for a person that cannot always make his own decision as to what he can do over a course of a day. I spoke to his aide, and we decided to put rain gear on him, and do our best to make the best of the situation.

WeLovetoFish2Four hours later, we returned to the ramp to sunny skies and perfect weather. Not only was the weather perfect, but so was the angler. With the confidence of KVD, this individual stayed with the plan and had a perfect day on the water. He was able to catch and land over ten largemouth bass. The biggest being just under three pounds, and the smallest was just over a pound. Every fish that came to the boat made him feel more and more comfortable with me.

After our day was over I asked him if he had fun. This person looked at me right in the eye and told me that next time we have to go out during the weekend. That was the moment I knew how important it was to continue taking people out for a day. This was a very successful maiden voyage.

My next trip was scheduled for the next week and in typical New England fashion, it was over 100 degrees. We did not want to disappoint the person coming out, so we decided to delay the trip for a couple of hours. We set out from the ramp with a cooler full of water and all of us covered in sun screen. This partner for a day did not let the heat affect him at all. We sang songs, danced to even worse songs, and caught our share of fish.

This individual had a spirit I have never seen from any person I have ever met. Each cast and hook set brought an infectious smile that carried over to everyone on the boat. We did not even let the 100 degree weather get us down, as we caught fish after fish. I learned a lot from this person. I learned never to let outside factors ruin my time on the water. While all the fish we caught were small and not all of them were bass, we had a perfect day.

The last trip I am going to talk about is the trip that helped me recover from my northern pike experience. This was a trip that would be a new experience for me. The woman that was coming out was a person who worked in my office. I knew if we did not have a successful day, I would always have to see her after the trip.

Have you ever had a day on the water that everything went right? That’s the day we had. This person learned to cast a lure out with amazing accuracy. She learned the movement of the bait, and picked up the hook set within minutes. She proved to be a natural! She caught so many fish I lost count. To see her reaction to the fish was amazing. She didn’t just want to catch fish; she wanted to catch big fish.

Once I thought our day was over, we headed back to the ramp. But, she asked to make one last cast so I stopped the boat and handed her a rod rigged with a five-inch swim bait. She grabbed the rod and made a cast that I couldn’t even make. What came next still baffles me. She set the hook and a monster four pound bass jumped out of the water. I was freaking out, but not her. She reeled in that fish with a determination that I have never seen. Once the fish was landed I was shaking from clapping and cheering her on. In a calm way, she turned to me and asked “Is this a big one”. All I could say was “Holy Sh__!”. We had a perfect day on the water.

This year we all watched as Chris Lane broke down after his amazing classic win. The sight of him “Tebowing” will forever be a lasting image to all who love bass fishing. I always thought that this was my future goal in this sport. Not anymore! Every trip I take with an individual shows me that my place is not in a tournament. My place is with someone who deserves to have a perfect day on the water. My passion is renewed every time I see an individual’s face light up at the sight of that fish breaking the water.

We Love to Fish is my new passion. This year we will have taken 16 trips with individuals involved in RTR programs. I am also honored that Pure Fishing has come aboard as the official sponsor of the program. They have donated a rod and reel combo for each of the guests to use and then take home after their day on the water.

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My program is also growing. We have 20 dates scheduled for next year, and also will be working to partner up with the Special Olympics of Massachusetts. I encourage other tournament anglers to give back to programs like mine. I am looking for other partners and will be launching a website and fundraising campaign in the next few weeks. My goal is to help other organizations give a perfect day on the water to individuals who need one. If you would like to know more about our the people in our program, please visit www.roadtoresponsibility.org.

Also if you would like to help the program please contact me at rlever@rtrinc.org. I hope to speak on this matter more, and would like to thank Advanced Angler for letting me write about my passion. Fishing is a big part of our life, now let’s help others make it a big part of theirs!