By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer
When Chris Morlok of Hernando started his own youth-oriented bass club, his goal was to share the excitement of the full tournament experience with his youngsters. Six years later, that experience has been full beyond all expectation.
A career truck driver who’s been married 18 years and has two sons, Morlok faces the same demands on his free time as anyone, which helps him relate to those who say they don’t have time to fish.
“There’s never enough time,” he said. “We’re never going to have any more time to do things than we have right now until our kids are grown and gone, and then they’re grown and gone. Then it’s too late. This club gives people dates. It gives them an excuse.
“A tournament season is eight times in a year when Dad’s not going to have a meeting, when he’s not working overtime, when he’s not going to be too busy to be on the water doing something that really matters with his kid. I’m giving them dates they know they’re going fishing together and, when I see them out there, it’s really something special to me.”
Known as the Mid-South Jr. Bass Club, Morlok’s creation offers the full tournament experience without the burden of big entry fees. As a former adult tournament angler who’d fished in clubs with his own dad, sharing the full experience with his sons was Morlok’s ultimate goal.
“I grew up in that environment and I wanted to share that with my sons, he said. “There are a number of money tournaments for adult and youth teams, but that’s not what I wanted. I wanted the club atmosphere.”
Building life skills
“There’s the confidence they build in competition, the pride they take in bringing in fish to weigh, and there are also the stories that only come out of groups like this,” he said, “stories they’ll remember and smile about the rest of their lives.”
Today his boys are 14 and 15 years old. He and his older son fished a tournament together in 2005, but it lacked something special, something Morlok set out to recreate from his own memory. After experimenting with ideas during 2006, he launched the club and did a full eight-tournament trail in 2007, and it’s been off and running ever since.
A year’s dues run $140, which admits one adult and one youngster fishing in one boat to eight tournaments that take place over the course of the spring, summer and fall. A second youth can be added to a team for $110. The fee covers the two fishermen’s entry to the Mississippi Bass Federation for liability insurance purposes. It also gets the fishermen an official jersey as well as, for the youth members, a tackle package from sponsor Strike King Lures. Bass Pro Shops of Memphis, another key sponsor, supplies the youth tournament participants with occasional gear over the course of the season.
fair for all ages
The youth fish in age divisions of 6 to 14, and 15 to 18. Although they’re in a boat with their parent or guardian who’s fishing too, the weight of the boated fish is not cumulative. The youth can weigh a 5-fish limit, all of which they must have caught themselves. The adults fish for a 1-fish limit and can compete against one another in an optional big-fish pot.
This tournament visits a number of different lakes over the course of a season, but the three tournaments remaining this year are all on Pickwick Lake, set for Aug. 25, Sept. 8 and Oct. 20 and 21. Memberships are still available. Alternately, an adult-child team can fish a tournament as a guest entry for $25. They won’t be in the competition per se, but they’ll get to weigh their fish and otherwise experience the environment and see what it’s all about. If they decide to join after that, the $25 goes toward their membership fee for the year.
For more information, visit kidsbassin.com. Although the tournament dates there are from last year, the club rules and other information remains current. Morlok can be reached at 901-604-6274.