By Pete Robbins
An idea had been circling in the head of longtime tournament pro and guide Kurt Dove for a number of years: he wanted to share his fishing expertise in a novel way, one that would help youth to gain appreciation for the sport.
“I’d heard about a bass camp up at Lake Fork in North Texas and thought it was a cool idea,” he said. “I wanted to set up something like that. I wanted it to be 100 percent hard core bass fishing, because that’s what drives me. I’m not involved in this sport for fame and fortune. If they come, that’s great, but what I really wanted to show was my passion for the sport.”
The idea didn’t start to gel until March of 2010, though. That’s when guide clients Chase Kemp and Roger DiCamillo from Las Cruces, New Mexico stepped in his boat.
“They told me about the Kemp Youth Hunt Club back in New Mexico,” Dove recalled. “I told them about my idea. In fact I already had a schedule and the whole plan made out in my head.” The two anglers kept pressing Dove to make it happen, and last week it finally did. “Kurt Dove’s Pro-Bass Camp” took place at famed Lake Amistad from June 20th through June 24th, and by all accounts it was an overwhelming success.
“We set the dates back in February and limited it to 10 kids,” he said. “And we filled it before we even really told many people about it. We just called some people who we thought might be interested and they jumped all over it.” Six campers came from New Mexico, two from the home state of Texas, one from Dove’s native Virginia, and one from across the Pacific in Hawaii.
The program consisted of five days of activities, four days of fishing, and four nights of overnight accommodations at River Street Lodging, all for the relatively low price of $550. All food and activities were included in that fee, as was a tackle pack worth well over $200, with the possibility to win even more loot. Five top bass pros and guides – Dove, Debra Hengst, Olin Jensen, Raul Cordero and T.R. Andreas – lent their time and talents to teach the kids a crash course on advanced angling. There were seminars on particular techniques, like spinnerbaiting and crankbaiting, as well as boat operation and maintenance. The goal was to make them not just guide clients along for the ride, but also into decision makers, able to dissect the water and lure in their own fish. Accordingly, after three days of on-the-water instruction, the final day consisted of a tournament.
“The great thing about it was that it was a process,” Dove explained. “You’d have two kids in the boat fishing as individuals but working together. They had to decide where to go and how to fish and utilize what they learned.”
The camp started strong as Bowdi Armstrong landed a 5-12 Amistad toad the first morning. By the time tournament day rolled around, the bite may have gotten a little tougher, but the campers persevered. Julian Sosa-Carver of Mesilla Park, N.M. won the event with a three-fish limit that weighed 9.13 pounds. Kadin Thens was second with 7.25 and Donald Peters was third with 6.60. For their efforts, they earned even more fishing swag – not just trophies but rods and all manner of tackle.
There was also an award for the Most Improved Angler, who in this case turned out to be long-distance traveler Tristin Hale, who came from Kailua, Hawaii for his first ride on trophy bass waters. In fact, before the camp, he’d never caught a fish of any kind. He landed his first bass on the first day on the water and by tournament day was an old hand, able to put a limit in the livewell.
“The thing that impressed me most about these kids was how respectful they were,” Dove continued. “They were all really excited to be there. You see it all the time in the fishing industry – kids who were brought up in the outdoors tend to have respect for one another. They all commented on how great the other campers were and when they got home Facebook lit up with their comments.”
With one successful run under his belt, Dove intends to make his camp even bigger in 2013. The details aren’t available yet – he’ll wait until the major tournament schedules are released – but his initial intent is to double the size of the event, and perhaps have two sessions if demand requires it, as he expects it will. Anyone desiring more information about his plans should send him a message through the “Contact” tab on his website, www.kurtdove.com.