Father & son champions fish first BFL together
While there are many out there, Flowery Branch is about to bring the next great father/son fishing team to the T-H Marine BFL Bulldog Division.
And we are talking about a dad and his son who already have won Angler of the Year points races in their respective divisions.
Roger Vinson, a long-time Georgia Big Stick who lives in Flowery Branch and is a familiar threat at all Lanier (and Hartwell) tournaments, has also feasted on the BFL’s Savannah River Division in his 20 years as a competitive angler, most of those in FLW tournaments. In fact, he was Angler of the Year in the BFL’s Savannah River Division in 2011–winning the points title after never finishing below 25th all season. He nearly won the points race as a co-angler in 2004, finishing 3rd in that same division. Now, there’s another version of Vinson about to enter the BFL scene; Roger’s son Peyton, who may be the only young angler who knows what it’s like on the inside of a rod box [read on].
Peyton last year was the top high school angler in Georgia. He won the points race in Georgia High School Fishing last year and finished second this year. He’s the next Georgia Big Stick in the Vinson household, and while his Dad’s reputation precedes him, young Peyton will cut his BFL teeth in the back of the boat next month at the T-H Marine BFL two-day event at Lanier.
“I’m very excited about it,” said Peyton. “Hopefully, both me and my Dad will do really well.”
Of course, Peyton has grown up fishing behind a legendary Lanier Big Stick, his Dad Roger, and he’s on the way toward following in his Dad’s footsteps.
He’s been fishing on his high school fishing team for the past two years.
“It’s a pretty cool thing, getting us younger kids some fishing experience before we graduate and go on to college,” said Peyton. “Georgia High School Fishing is cool because all the tournaments are on Lanier and then the other tour (sponsored The Bass Federation) is really cool, because it’s almost like you’re fishing for a living [traveling to different lakes] but still going to school.”
“When Peyton won the points championship I was fist pumping even more than when I won the points championship in the Savannah River Division,” said Roger.
Roger says Georgia High School Fishing has really taken off. He said he was shocked that the first tournament that Peyton entered had more than 100 boats “…and it just blew my mind. And what’s really something is that 70% of these boat captains are not even fathers of the anglers, they are just people giving back their time.”
In high school angling, there are certain rules that apply to the captains. Roger explains. “A boat captain is pretty much like a high school coach. Just like other sports, I can’t actually do anything myself. I can’t make a cast. I can make recommendations. I can help them tie stuff on. Captains can run the trolling motor and help them cull.”
As far as partners go, Peyton says you don’t necessarily have to go to the same high school as your partner.
“My partner can be from a different school but if he wears a Flowery Branch jersey he can fish with me,” said Peyton.
Georgia High School Fishing is catching on fast throughout the state. The largest organization in north Georgia is Georgia High School Fishing (G.H.S.F.) which has six tournaments based on Lake Lanier running from late October until early May. According to G.H.S.F. president and tournament director Scott Beard, the only requirements “…are that the student has to be a 7th through 12th grader in good standing with his/her school.” It is $50 to join and $30 per boat entry fee per tournament. Anyone interested can find out more and sign up at georgiahighschoolfishing.blogspot.com.
One of the volunteers that helped give Peyton Vinson the chance to fish the High School World Championship is Amy Hammock, a sort of Queen-of-all-Trades for the Flowery Branch Student Anglers. Amy is part team-leader, part general-manager, part chief-recruiter and overall guru of one of north Georgia’s most competitive high school teams. “All you really need to have to start a team is two high school anglers and one boat captain,” said Amy. “My son (Avery) was that one team.” Amy said that Peyton was one of the original team members last year as a junior. “That first year we had 18 students last year we had 10 and this year about 12. While most of the tournaments at Lanier, this year they’ve added two at Lake Hartwell.”
There’s another high school group in Georgia sponsored by The Bass Federation (TBF), and it’s known as the TBF Student Angler Federation, part of a national organization supported by FLW. Each year, nearly 400 high school teams, including some from Georgia, compete for the chance to go to the High School Fishing World Finals, held this past summer at Pickwick Lake.
Young Peyton Vinson fished in that World Championship last year on Pickwick, and while he didn’t finish as well as he’d liked, “…it was a great experience and I learned a lot.”
So what’s it like growing up with a Georgia Big Stick in the front of the boat?
“As long as I can remember, I’ve been fishing,” said Peyton, who will be fishing for NGC beginning next month. His Dad agrees.
“That’s pretty accurate,” laughs Roger. “I remember Peyton was probably about five years old and one time we were out and it got to raining really hard and the rain suit was so big, and we talked about it, but I just put him in the rod locker to keep him dry,” said Roger with a smile, with Peyton laughing in the background. “He stayed in there about 30-40 minutes playing with his Gameboy,” added Roger, laughing.
Peyton says his favorite lake is Lake Hartwell, where his Dad has also won a lot of money over the years.
While he’s ranked as one of the Top 10 fishermen on Lake Lanier, deep water fishing, as good as he is at it, is not his sweet spot. “To be honest, I love catching these big spots but my first love is shallow water fishing.”
“Now you’ve got HDS and high-tech equipment, but way back when I learned the difference between bait fish and structure on my old flasher unit,” said Roger. “I’ve heard Casey Ashley say it’s so rewarding when you learn how to fish deep and it really is.”
He says Chickamauga is one of his favorite lakes.
“I took Peyton and one of his buddies up there and we just went old school with an [Zoom] Ole Monster worm, a jig and a crank bait and we caught fifty or sixty bass a day easy” remembered Roger. “The kids loved it and I did, too. What I also loved was finding those places,” he added. “We spent a several hours looking but once we found them, that was it.”
“Peyton shows a lot of interest in marine electronics and has been working part-time at Bass Pro Shops and has an interest in my Lowrance. It kinda scared me a couple of times when he’s been messing with my Lowrance; I thought he might be deleting my waypoints,” laughed Roger.
Roger and Peyton even got to meet and talk with Gerald at a gathering in South Carolina. Peyton called Gerald Swindle “the funniest dude I’ve ever met.” Swindle told him “…if you want to be like me, it takes a lot more than just going out on the weekends and that you had to sacrifice a lot.”
It wasn’t Roger’s first contact with Swindle. He roomed with him nearly 15 years ago at Clarks Hill.
“Gerald is a dandy and he’s a character and he gave me some really good advice,” remembered Roger. “He said ‘Number one, don’t listen to dock talk, keep an open ear on the water and number two, if you want to learn how to fish a certain bait, like a jig, go to the lake with one jig rod and don’t put it down all day.'” Vinson said Swindle also told him “if I had a job like you, Roger, I’d have never made it as a professional fisherman.” Roger is a supervisor at the Wrigley manufacturing facility near Gainesville.
Asked about his finish at Cross Lake’s T-H Marine BFL All American, Roger joked and said “I’m no natural. If I had been a natural I would have weighed the 20 or so pounds I hooked at Cross Lake on the first day!”. Roger finished 37th in the All American–one of the most difficult tournaments to qualify for and perhaps the most prestigious tournament in all of bass fishing.
What do his friends and competitors say about him?
Georgia Big Stick Todd Goade, one of the most respected Georgia pros and a long-time BFL competitor who is now entering his second season fishing the Costa Series Central Divison, called Roger “…a top-shelf guy that has a strong commitment to his son and to his family.”
So, besides Swindle, who does the senior Vinson consider the best? “Van Dam is an ambassador and you can’t help but watch him,” said Roger. “And I fished the BFL’s when Casey Ashley did on the Savannah River. He’s a quiet, laid back guy but a serious competitor. He’s a favorite of mine. In a way, he started a little bit like Peyton, as his Dad has fished a pretty good bit down there at Russell and really got him into it.”
Roger said he thought it would probably take about 35 pounds to win the Lanier BFL next month. “I think 17 pounds a day would do it,” said Roger.
The younger Vinson’s strategy in the upcoming event is to “finesse fish a lot and try to get limit and see where it goes from there.”
We’re only three weeks left between now and the Lanier two-day tournament, and despite the fact that Peyton Vinson will be beginning his career as a collegiate angler, you can bet these two Georgia Big Sticks will be gearing up for their first BFL event together.