A Fisher Named Hunter

When young Hunter Reilley told his mom he wanted to go fishing, she never imagined just how hooked he would get on the idea. Since spring, 12-year-old Hunter won two local fishing tournaments and now has his sights set on a state and world championship. Thanks to an organization called Junior Bass Master, he also has learned the meaning of sportsmanship, the importance of conservation and the joy of helping others.

"He's a natural," said Hunter's mother, Robin Reilley. "He can be fishing with ten other guys that aren't catching a thing and Hunter will be catching one after another. Everybody's using the same equipment, same bait, same everything, but Hunter will outfish the others nearly every time."

When Hunter's mother realized her son had a "God given talent," she surfed the web for an organization that would support her son's passion for fishing. She found Bass Masters Junior, the youth division of B.A.S.S. (Bass Anglers Sportman Society) Federation Nation. The nationwide organization has an Oklahoma club, North Oklahoma City Bass Master, where junior members can compete in smaller tournaments on Oklahoma lakes. Winners go on to compete in the state championship and then on to the world championship.

The young anglers are divided into two age categories, 11 – 14 and 15 – 18. Reilley says her son is the only one in his age group who has won two tournaments. Hunter also is currently in good standing to be named Junior Bass Master's Angler of the Year and Member of the Year.

"When Hunter was born a little early, we hadn't chosen a name for him," said Reilley. "Since our family is big into hunting and fishing, we decided to call him Hunter. Our family jokes that if we had only known then what we do now, we definitely would have named him 'Fisher.'"

Reilley went on to explain that Hunter began fishing at Guthrie Lake, where his grandparents live. He wanted to fish in a tournament there, but was told he was just too young. Then, it was decided that if he was accompanied by one of the adult anglers, he could participate. Hunter ended up winning second place, much to the amazement of the older and more experienced fishermen.

When asked what it is that her son does differently, Hunter's mother smiled and said, "Sometimes, we think it's the attitude he has about the bass. He always releases them
and even has a special way of saying good-bye to them. He also never eats bass. Maybe the released bass go back and tell their friends they're better off letting Hunter catch them."

The Oklahoma club tournaments are in April, May, June and September. Hunter recently won the state championship on Sunday, October 29th at Lake Lawtonka in Medicine Park, Oklahoma. The junior world competition will be held in Birmingham, Alabama, in February, the same time as the adult Bass Master World Championship.

"At the world competition, the kids get to fish alongside fishing greats, such as Kevin Van Dam and Mike Iaconelli," said Reilley. "They spend the first day learning from the pros. On the second day, the "juniors" rely on their own skills and knowledge. Winners are judged by the total weight of their fish."

Once a year, according to Reilley, Junior Bass Master members participate in community service programs. This July, Hunter helped teach children to fish at Camp Cavett, a separately sponsored program for children 10 years and older with chronic diseases. The camp gives the children an opportunity to spend time with other children like themselves, playing, learning and sharing feelings with each other.

"It was wonderful to watch Hunter help these children fish," said Reilley. "Many of them
had little energy because of their illness. Hunter was so patient, something I think he's really learned from fishing."

Reilley believes her son has benefited in many important ways from his association with Junior Bass Master. Once a month, the club has guest speakers who teach the children about fishing basics, conservation and good fishing ethics. The young members also learn about parliamentary meeting procedure and how to manage B.A.S.S. Federation clubs.

"Fishing has helped Hunter develop a strong self-esteem," said Reilley. "He even reads better because he enjoys reading fishing magazines. More important, he's learned the value of helping others and what it means to 'be a good sport,' even if someone else wins."

If you ask Hunter what he wants to be when he grows up, his answer, "a professional bass angler," would probably not surprise you. However, Hunter wants to take that dream one step further–to be the youngest world champion in history, or as he stated it, "the Tiger Woods of fishing."

It's a big dream, but for Hunter, it probably won't be "the one that got away."

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