If you really want to learn, teach.

Courtesy of Vance McCullough

Photos courtesy of Jenni Welborn Coates & Bassmaster.com


Jim Durham at Bridgemaster Fishing Products in Lake Wales, FL sponsors high school anglers in his region. One duo in particular, the team of Owen Gooding and Cricket Coates, qualified for the Bassmaster National Championship and placed 6thin a field of 309 teams at the event on Lake Chickamauga.

Their support crew includes their parents along with Durham, Chuck Metheny and Toyota Series standout Brandon Medlock who served as their boat captain during the qualifying round on Lake Okeechobee and at the National Championship.

Metheny has mentored a number of youth anglers and has fished tournaments with Coates and her boat captain, Medlock as partners. He knows the team well.

“I’ve fished tournaments and practiced with Cricket. I’ve captained (other youth) in the past and it was a blessing to me to be able to share with them what I was taught from my dad and through my years of experience. There are those kids that don’t get out on the water at all until tournament day or even have the right equipment (rod/reel and tackle) and I’ve been so blessed over the years especially with my boss Jim Durham, he’s 100% all in on helping the youth.

“I had a young boy on the boat several years ago that had 1 rod, reel was junk, old, braided line and was using the same bait as the other youngster who was smashing them (Sammy Jay Acree who now works at Bridgemaster). Sammy had fluorocarbon. I offered the boy my personal 8-foot Carrot Stix, ready to use but he wouldn’t. Finally, around noon, I got that rod out handed it to him and said, ‘use this, if it breaks or something, do not worry about it’. Long story short, he caught the fool out of ‘em! Caught his personal best, a 4.5-pounder, but the smile said 10-pounder.

“Sammy won his junior division and the other boy finished 3rd, got a trophy and you’d have thought he won the Classic. Made my day. I then handed him that Carrot Stix and Quantum reel and told it was for being such a well-mannered young man (everything was yes sir/no sir). I was blessed immensely.”

Medlock, a known hammer, made time to guide Gooding and Coates during the qualifying tournament, a decision he’s glad he made. “Any chance to get on the water, to me, is good and just to be able to give something back to the fishing community. These kids made it that far so I wanted to do what I could to help them. Then I figured, since I helped them qualify, I might as well help them once they went up there to Nationals.”

In spite of his years on the Toyota Series, Medlock had never seen Lake Chickamauga, so he was excited to graph its famed ledges. “I had been to other places on the Tennessee River so I kind of knew the deal, knew what to look for on the ledges and stuff.”

In addition to the ledges, Gooding and Coates fished grass but it was the lesson in electronics that may stick with them most. They watched Medlock’s Humminbird unit as he idled and taught. “I graphed a whole lot while we were up there and showed them stuff on the graph, what to look for. Hopefully they learned a lot.”

Medlock went with Gooding’s dad to get a look at the lake before the official cut off. “One spot, I told Kyle, ‘These stumps are in the right spot but there’s absolutely no fish on them right now’. I marked those stumps.”

Gooding and Coates had a decent Day 1 on Chick, but it was their Day 2 big fish rally that put them in the final cut.

“We had a couple hours left and I said, ‘Let’s go flippin’. We were heading to go flippin’ and I drove by those marks that didn’t have any fish on them in pre-practice a month ago, and they were loaded. That’s where we caught ‘em the second day when we caught those big ones.”

The lesson sank in. “If you mark the right kind of structure,” notes Medlock, “fish are going to use that some time. That’s probably the biggest thing I learned – if you go ahead of time to pre-practice, don’t rule something out because there’s no fish on it. If it looks like there should be fish on it, go ahead and mark it because it might be where you win a tournament when you come back.”

The kids learned from the pro. He picked up a trick or two from them as well.

The most obvious aspects of angling can get lost in our thought processes as we progress in the sport. An age-old lesson was reinforced for Medlock as he watched the two youth fish contrasting styles. “I learned to slow down. One of the kids was fishing faster and the other was fishing quite a bit slower and was getting most of the bites. I learned that, when they’re not biting good, slow down a little more.”

If you want to learn something, teach it. Medlock can attest, “That’s one of the reasons I volunteered to go up there.”