We finally caught him!
Captain Jackson Kelly!
Oh, no way!
Way! — don't worry, we will get back to our boys’ latest catches (and they were some good ones!) — but while we have his attention, Captain Jackson, we have been eager to hear — how did you get into the fishing game, and why do you do it?
Reeling in the Captain
When Jackson was in high school, he tells us, he thoroughly enjoyed fishing on his own, teaching himself through trial and error. He quickly learned that, “If you can get someone to teach you, you can learn a lot quicker,” saying, “It took me a while to figure some things out on my own, but my boat captain taught me a lot within just a year and a half.” (Yes, even boat captains once had boat captains.) All that training with his own captain would eventually pay off when Jackson got a call from one of the coaches of the Benjamin Russell team inviting him to be a captain himself.
That was back in 2021, and it was the moment when Jackson stepped up to represent the TerraX team and become Captain Jack™ to our boys, Carson Pearce and Grant Sheffield!
“Even before all that (before he got the call), I thought about doing a youth guided service,” says Jackson. After three years with the boys, Jackson says, “I really do enjoy working with the kids, coaching, and taking Grant and Carson out on the water. It’s always really fun to help them figure things out by themselves.”
Speaking of figuring things out for themselves, how have our boys been doing in the last two tournaments? Doug, you’re up!
The Boys Take Lead on Lake Jordan!
As a casual fisherman himself, Doug Sheffield — father to Grant and our reliable co-captain — pops in for a final say and a recap of Lake Jordan. (Where have you been Doug? Jump on in here!) “Everyone loves to go fishing and catching. There is no one who doesn't have a smile on their face when they actually catch a fish, then there are those still learning even when they aren't catching stuff.The puzzle of figuring this out is the true mark of a fisherman (Say more!) — very few can figure out what the fish are doing — that's what Jackson is doing for the boys.”
That’s an important distinction Doug! As our co-captain, how have our boys done on Lake Jordan (AKA Lake Jurdon) this fall?
"The boys made good decisions on the water,” says Doug, adding a classic shout-out to the team’s main man, “But that’s because Jackson has taught them when to give up and when to try something new — if it was always up to me, we would be in a bind! I'm nowhere near in the same category as Jackson. Me? I'm more of a fish catcher — you wanna catch bottom fish, I'm your man!”
Doug wouldn't be Doug if he didn’t give away all the credit! But if Doug is going to undersell himself, we will simply have to interject. (Uh huh!) Doug plays a big role in the tournaments he captains! The boys may have learned a lot from Jackson and even take most of the reins; however, Doug is there to be the guiding voice when things get tough.
Doug says, “I try to let them make the decisions … versus telling them what to do;” however, before and then during the tournament on Lake Jordan, the water level, as it so often does, went from low to high, and the boys had some struggles.
Doug tells us, “It was a really tough tournament because of the water fluctuation, and no one knew what to do — it was complete chaos!” At first, Grant of course had it in the bag, catching a fish on his first cast! However, Doug explains, “after that, we struggled — it was our only lunker fish for the entire tournament.” The team found themselves having to hang out and fish the same spot for several hours, which Doug describes as feeling like the definition of insanity, “expecting different results doing the same thing over and over again!” After that initial catch, “to say it wasn't working was an understatement,” says Doug. “The boys were making the right moves, we just had to make a quick change and do something different than what we are doing.” Doug then suggested moving to another area, “a spot that I can't see from where I'm sitting.” Humble, Doug says, “I did end up pulling the plug on what we were doing because you gotta know where and when to quit.” (Full of life lessons, Doug.)
In the end, “The boys made the right moves.” says Doug. “They eventually both decided to go fish in a brush pile and ended up catching a bunch of fish really quickly — 14 to 15 to get their limit.” (Which, by the way, around five fish.) Doug says, “The fish responded to the water fluctuation in an odd way, but we got lucky.” In true Doug fashion he says, “I can't even tell them what to do because they know better than me!”
Like a true captain, Jackson defends Doug saying, “When Doug takes them out, they still do very well — it's not just me!” Recalling his time with his own captain, Jackson says, “Yes, the boys have learned a lot from me, but they can learn a whole lot more without me because they have to figure everything out by themselves!” Jackson admits that his old boat captain would teach him a lot; however, he learned even more on his own. “You have to really enjoy it, figure things out on your own, and the experience will end up being pretty good. Not only have the boys learned to actually find and catch the fish, but it sounds like they still have fun when they go out with Doug too!” (We couldn't agree more.)
“You can see why the boys catch fish with Jackson!” Doug jumps back in adding, “Our boys feel different from other teams because they keep their lures in the water and keep fishing — they don't give up.” Leaving us with, “as long as they are giving effort, I will give effort.”
Bringing us back to the tournament on Lake Jordan, Kenny, Carson’s dad (and our boss!) interrupts to give his support. ”Even still, the boys and the entire Benjamin Russell team did great!” Competing against 113 boats, Kenny says, “They caught around 15 fish in all on Saturday.” And even though they could never catch any big ones, Carson and Grant still finished as the 5th best boat on our Benjamin Russell team; coming in with their five fish limit weight of 7.35 lbs, the boys took 26th place at lake Jordan! (Congratulations boys!)
“Yes,” says Doug, “We did well! There are few people that actually caught fish during the tournament.” Doug adds, “I had a great time with those boys — they keep such a good attitude.”
That attitude truly pays off every time, and it is what is needed for the remaining tournaments as Jackson finds his own fishing path into college!
Making their own decisions on Lay Lake
Jackson captained the boys in the next tournament on Lay Lake, saying, “We had a pretty good day pre-fishing!” He explains that the lake level was low during pre-fishing — down 5 ft — but rose back up just before the actual tournament. Our team had to change things up on the day of, catching small fish at first, until Grant and Carson decided to fish a little pocket (a cut in the bank off the main river where fish typically hang out) knowing that the fish will start to move to the back of the pockets when the water gets shallow. “This was fully their idea,” says Jackson. “It was in that one pocket that they weighed in a few of the 10 that they actually caught! It really shows that they are learning,” says Jackson.
Jackson continues to amp up our boys reporting that, since working with them, our junior fishermen have gotten better at reading a graph, visualizing the bait in the water, and even knowing how to cast and catch out in the middle of nowhere!
“Casting at something you can't see is tough!” explains Jackson. “You're out in the middle of the water, and you have to know how to put the lure in the water and how to move it around a brush pile (where the fish hang out). Sometimes you want it to move really fast and hit the brush pile, sometimes you want it to move really slowly, and sometimes you want to catch the lure in the brush pile, either by dragging it through or on along the sides.” Basically, whether you catch a fish or not, it all depends on how you present your bait! (Make that bait look good and tasty!)
“That ain't even the half of it!” Jackson continues. “It’s important to learn how the seasons, the weather, and the water levels affect the fishes’ movements in the water too.”
Getting back to the tournament! (And maybe another fishing tangent…)
The day of the tournament on Lay Lake, most of the competition were “fishing fast” (Meaning they were trying hard to catch quickly and taking their lures out of the water perhaps too fast) and, therefore, many other boats did not catch the limit. Our boys, however, caught a decent amount of fish (catching the limit) because our team fished a little slower and, as Jackson puts it, “had patience, keeping the bait in front of the fish and finessing instead of fishing fast.”
Jackson explains that you can catch two different kinds of fish depending on which pace you choose. “Powerfish (AKA the bigger fish), are caught with fast fishing (moving the lure quickly through the water) but sometimes,” — in accordance with the weather and water levels (we are learning!) — “more fish can be caught with patience and finesse,” says Jackson. “We caught so many more fish in the same area as our competition simply because we took it slow and steady and had an intentional cast, versus those who were fast fishing.”
Kenny tells us, “A lot of kids have a problem fishing slow because it takes more patience. You can be fishing in the right area, where the big fish are, but if you're not working the lure the right way, you’re not going to get a bite! You could be throwing the same thing over and over again, but if you are working the lure incorrectly for the environment, you won’t catch anything!” Jackson agrees saying, “just casting away, you are going to have a very slow day.” (Love a good rhyming tidbit!)
Thanks to their steady patience and smart adaptive tactics, our boys ended up winning first place on Lay Lake with a weigh in of 12.18 and a clean score of 300! (Check out their shout out on the Benjamin Russell Facebook!) Congrats to our boys, our captain, and the entire Benjamin Russell team for taking the top two spots!
Hey Jackson! Now that you’ve helped our boys to secure yet another win, what are you going to do next?
Broad Horizons for Captain Jack
At this time, Jackson has a flexible schedule to teach the boys; however, sadly, he wont be with us forever. By next year, Jackson will be studying Electrical Engineering at Auburn. (Impressive!) “Our access to Jackson is going to be limited, so it will be a sad day when he leaves in the spring,” says a somber Doug. Auburn has been one of the top five schools in fishing (winning nationals last year), and Jackson hopes to continue his fishing career within the school. He still hopes to fish in his local tournaments as well as help out the boys where he can. “Our cocky days will be limited when Jackson is gone,” adds Doug.
Now, even though the boys may not have the same kind of security as they have had with Jackson on the boat, Kenny says it’s really all about keeping that lure in the water. “This is huge to me,” he says, “because it’s the hardest thing in the world to do!” He continues, “As a kid, when I was out there with my dad, if the fish weren't biting, I would be on the shore looking for arrowheads instead!” (Don’t worry, everyone — Kenny knows the correct term is projectile point now!) Kenny says laughing at himself — “It’s tough out there as a young kid, and Carson and Grant deserve a lot of credit for their ambition.” (Keep up that confidence boys!)
In the end, Jackson says, “The boy’s have learned a lot!” and everyone one of their supporters believes in them as they learn to navigate the waters with or without a professional on their boat. Jackson, Kenny, and Doug agree that the boys will need to rely on a combination of patience, fortitude, and confidence to remain in the top spot — and they have no doubt they will. “Both boys are better fishermen than I am,” says Doug, “Carson and Grant have placed top 5 in fall and top 10 in the spring — that’s 10 total out of 24! Many Anglers never even place! I’d say they have gained a lot of confidence and skill since working with Jackson.” In the coming tournaments Doug says, “the boys will be leading the fishing, and I will be driving the boat and hoping and praying for the best!” (And so will we!)
Congratulations to everyone! We cannot wait to see how the fall tournament turns out. (Check this link for all tournament details!) We’d like to extend personal thank yous to Jackson for joining us for the final few tournaments and to Kenny and Doug for not only giving us the inside scoop but for convincing Jackson to join in on the fun! We are just as confident in our boys as their main supporters. Keep kicking butt boys!
— Your always optimistic announcers, Sophie and KB