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Raising kids with a rod and reel

Brandon Gill, 15, proudly holds up a speckled trout caught on a sinking lure, which takes skill and practice to do well, said his father, Dr. John Gill of Corpus Christi. Courtesy photo

Optometrist Dr. John Gill sees the value of fishing when raising a family in Corpus Christi. His three sons fish with him for fun, food and scholarship money. Brandon, 15, Dylan, 12 and Carson, 7, learn valuable lessons in life following their father’s self-established fishing code of ethics as well as tournament rules and regulations. They build confidence, learn responsibility and gain self-esteem. They also learn humility. “You can be humbled real quick,” Gill said. “You think you’re all that out there, and then you go fishing and you don’t catch anything. You learn to appreciate the good days.” Family fishing trips are ways to spend time together, interact with each other and learn right from wrong, Gill explained. Tournaments are especially good for teaching the value of following rules. The young Gill brothers are not allowed to cut tournament corners, even in contests where it’s allowed, such as in the Star Tournament held each summer for kids. “You can use bait or lures, you don’t even have to throw yourself,” Gill said, referring to casting into the water with a rod and reel. Some people even hire guides to cast and net; all the kids have to do is set the hook and reel it in, he said. “I don’t do that with my kids,” Gill said. “If they are going to win, they are going to do it on their own.” They are winning tournaments, too. Gill proudly bragged, not just of the wins, but the ones that got away — the sure-to-be a-winner catches that slip off the hook at the last minute. He noted the endurance and skill they have picked up as well. The boys get up at 4:30 a.m. to go out on the boat with their dad and will sometimes fish until after midnight. “My oldest boy caught his winning fish on a slow sinking lure, which takes some skill,” Gill said. “He’s had to really practice.” Gill teaches his boys the way his dad taught him, offering lots of time on the water, tips and traditions. “I fished every day after school, and I only fished with lures,” Gill said. “My daddy told me when I was done with my chores, I could do anything I wanted. We had a 40-acre lake in our neighborhood, so I fished.” He formed his own fishing code over the years, establishing ground rules with his kids including the lures-only restriction and throwing back most of what they catch. He also teaches them the more subtle tricks of the trade. One of those tricks relates back to Gill’s profession as an eye doctor. The better your vision, the better able you are to spot the best fishing holes. Good sunglasses help, too, he said. Gill uses different-colored mirrored glasses for different types of water, whether deep sea or bay water. He knows just what to look for beneath the surface in his search for hot fishing spots. His almost encyclopedic knowledge of fish and their habitats certainly doesn’t hurt either. Combine the two, and you have a fishing dynamo — Corpus Christi’s own fish whisperer. Gill’s expertise served him well when he fished professionally. He gave up the fishing circuit because of the stress, however. It started to take all the fun out of his favorite pastime. “I fish because it’s relaxing,” he said. “I can go out there and get away. I don’t have to think about any troublesome stuff; I can just relax. Fishing competitively takes a lot of focus. It’s stressful. I don’t really care about that anymore.” Gill keeps it fun for his kids, too, whether at a tournament or on a family excursion. Fun is also the reason he doesn’t use live bait. “Bait is cheating,” he said with a smile. “Lures are part of the fun — tricking the fish to bite the lure.” Knowing your lures and how to use them adds to the challenge. While Gill doesn’t make his own, he does tweak lures. He also keeps what he uses a secret between him and his friends and family. Also under wraps are his favorite fishing spots. That competitive streak obviously isn’t quite gone yet.

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