Editor's note: B.A.S.S. has designated 2019 as the Year of the Fan. To celebrate, B.A.S.S. is profiling some of the sport's biggest supporters.
MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. — Scott Christy has been around so many B.A.S.S. competitions, they put him to work.
Christy is a self-proclaimed “Fishing Dad,” spending time taking his son, Tyler, across the country for high school tournaments, including Bassmaster. Now he’s following college events as Tyler fishes for McKendree University in Lebanon, Ill.
“I’ve got to give some accolades to B.A.S.S., they’re doing a great job,” said Christy, 48. “I remember when we’d come out and there was 40 boats. Now there’s 400 boats. It’s good and bad (harder to win). You’ve got to maintain growth.”
At the Carhartt College event in April on Bull Shoals Lake, Christy volunteered to man the bag table. Among the dozen or so parents who faithfully make the journeys to watch their offspring compete, he thought it was a great way to give back.
“I loved watching the high school kids, and now we’re here talking college,” he said. “What B.A.S.S. offers, FLW and Illinois High School Association, has been phenomenal for these kids to get to where they’re at.”
Christy grew up fishing in northeast Ohio, chasing smallmouth bass and walleye on Lake Erie out of Port Clinton. He moved to Chicago at 22 for work at a company supplying copper and fiber for computer networks.
“I actually got hooked on salmon fishing on Lake Michigan for 5 or 7 years,” he said, adding he’d fish for largemouth closer to home. After marrying Kara Openchowski, it wasn’t long before Tyler came along and got involved in the sport. At 4, he was out with fishing with dad near their home in Cole City on Braidwood Lake, a phenomenal power plant lake that hosts tournaments.
“He followed dad, but he also followed my father-in-law (Dick Openchowski), who was a big bass fisherman,” Christy said. “Chicago is the retention pond capitol of the world. There’s ponds all over the place where they built these warehouses. It’s really good fishing. It’s a great way to teach a kid how to fish, because there’s a lot of fish, they catch them and they have of fun, but they learn a lot.”
The Christys began venturing out on larger bodies of water and soon Scott was seeing Tyler’s skills rival and even surpass his.
“I started to notice this kid is pretty good at what he does. He was picking techniques up,” said Christy, who discussed his acumen and potential of fishing competitively with his wife. “‘He’s pretty good. We might need to try this.’ ‘How good?’ ‘I think he’s tournament good.’”
Tyler’s connection to his grandfather and fishing was strong, so much so that when Openchowski passed away from pancreatic cancer, he willed Tyler his 17-foot Nitro bass boat. That started the Christy family down the high school path. While Illinois was the first state to sanction high school tournaments, Tyler’s school didn’t have a team. With one of Tyler’s friends, Scott started a community team and served as boat captain.
“We had a very successful high school team,” said Christy, “Tyler won the state championship with Tyler Lubbat, won a high school open on Toledo Bend. They had a string of top 10s going. It was really fun to watch. It’s fun to watch kids who get the sport, grow in the sport.”
The high school experiences, traveling around the country competing on the likes of Hartwell, Kentucky, Pickwick lakes among others, helps prepares youth for college fishing. Christy said it’s important to fish more than your local pond if you want to become a more well-rounded angler.
“If you do the high school program correctly, it will prepare you for college,” he said. “You learn to travel. You learn to be on the road. You learn how to break down a big body of water, like this big, clear lake. You learn how to manage your fish for three days. You learn about changing conditions.”