Open Range 2024 | All HTL Outdoor Event

A Crappie Fishing Trip That Changed the World

Rick Magee/KOZ

I was a little guy when I first saw my uncle’s Bass Tracker boat.  Looking back now, it wasn’t anything special or bright and shiny by the world of fishing boat standards, but it completely captured me.  It was aluminum with Bass Tracker’s orange/brown paint and carpet scheme, steering wheel, a trolling motor, and a 40 horsepower Mercury on it.  I remember wondering how fast it would go on the water.  I remember the feel of the 1970s abrasive indoor/outdoor carpet on my bare feet and the wear marks of hand positions on the steering wheel.  I would climb into the boat every time I had a chance to wander up to his shop where he kept it.  To further fire up this fantasy, I would hear my uncle tell the stories of catching crappie and would see him cleaning them and join them at the fish fries. A boat was a portal to a larger world that I wanted to be a part of.   

Then one day, the phone rang at my house.  It was the old wall-mounted, corded, rotary phone so I could hear my mom talking, and then she said, “You’ll have to ask him, but it’s fine with me.”  My uncle was on the line and he said, “Boy, I’m taking the boat to the river to go fishing tomorrow, you wanna go with me?” I looked at my mom, as if to have confirmation again, and she smiled affirmingly.  I told him I’d love to and asked what time to be ready.  I remember almost everything about that trip.  I was probably about 15 years old.  

My uncle was a crappie fisherman in central Mississippi, and we used telescoping 10’ and 12’ fiberglass poles with lite line and blue and white tube jigs.  It was spring and the crappie were spawning so we had no trouble finding and catching fish. I’ll never forget that first thump as an already tight line vibrated with a crappie grabbing that jig.  As I jerked the pole up, the rod tip stayed down and the fish fought relentlessly and made the whole experience absolutely electric with pulsating thrusts of excitement.  When the fish finally gave up and came to the top of the water, its beauty captured me and still has me to this day.  Some thirty-five to forty years later, crappie fishing is still my favorite.  I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

What really happened that day?  Did a boy just go fishing?  Did an uncle just get a fishing buddy for the day?  No, it was much, much more than that.  A man took the time to invite a fatherless boy into his world and introduce him to adventure and show him “man things.”  I learned to tie a fishing knot that day, how to tightline jigs from a jig pole, how crappie use shallow structure to spawn, and how fast a 40 HP Mercury will carry an aluminum boat.  It was intoxicating.  

When KOZ men invest their Saturday mornings in the boys of KOZ, it gives them a hope that life can be more than it is now.  When we introduce God’s plan for adventure and salvation, we are giving the boys a truer picture than Satan and the world has painted for them.  We are speaking into their destiny.  It matters–it will always matter.   So that fishing trip didn’t change whole world, but it changed mine.  And your next KOZ could be what changes a little boy’s world as well.

Rick Magee
Lynchburg, Va
Kids Outdoor Zone

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