It’s truly hard to wrap your mind around the different layers of goodness included in this weekend’s U.S. Open National Bass Fishing Amateur Team Championship on Table Rock Lake.

Not only will two anglers win a mind-boggling $1 million dollar first place payout along with two 2022 Toyota Tundra + Nitro Boat packages, but all fifty teams who qualified for Sunday’s final day will take home a check, and another million dollars will be donated to conservation efforts specific to improving our nation’s freshwater fisheries thanks to Bass Pro Shops and Toyota.

Still, the highlight of this whole event to me has been the special U.S. Open Kids Contest. Outdoors obsessed kids from all over the country submitted videos for the contest to be chosen by Johnny Morris and the Bass Pro Shops leadership team. In total fourteen different winners were chosen and every single one of them won a 2022 Bass Tracker Classic XL boat, motor, and trailer package.

If that wasn’t enough, the all fourteen winners were gifted rods and reels, BPS tackle, piles of gear, a $500 Bass Pro Shops gift card, an all expense paid trip to Big Cedar Lodge here in Missouri’s Ozark Mountains, and a chance to compete in a special kids fishing tournament taking place today on Table Rock.

The young anglers spent the last two days breaking in their new boats with pro anglers and bass fishing legends like Kevin VanDam, Rick Clunn, Mark Daniels Jr., Jimmy Houston, Mike McClelland, Roland Martin, and David Walker to name a few. Learning some Table Rock tricks and secrets of the pros with a seemingly permanent smile plastered to each of their faces.

The quotes overheard at the Long Creek Boat Dock as the contest winners came back for a quick lunch break couldn’t help but leave you smiling and laughing.

  • “Did you catch any fish?” “No! But I caught a turtle!”
  • “Can I press the horn button again?!”
  • “How was your morning, buddy?” “I’ve been talking to ducks. They said quack!”
  • “Dad can I stay here with my boat? I don’t need to eat lunch.” 
  • “I love fishing and I love this boat.”
  • “We caught some fishies… I caught a big one! Well, not really but I could have.”
  • “I think I might catch a bajillion fish out of this boat.”

Not the typical quotes you hear on the dock at a big time bass tournament, but these kids and the genuine passion for fishing that pours out of them embodies the best parts of our sport and this event in particular. Never underestimate the impact a few hours of fishing off the bank or a day in a bass boat can have on both youths and on us.

This weekend’s events serve as a great reminder to take a kid fishing or into the outdoors whenever the opportunity presents itself; along with doing everything we can to protect our natural resources and America’s wild places so future generations can continue to revel in their beauty and wonder.