Fans of kayak bass fishing know Ron Champion as one of the top competitors in the sport.
Now they’re starting to recognize his son, Branton, as an up-and-coming angler in his own right.
“Everybody knows what I do, I’ve done a lot of TV stuff over the years,” Ron Champion said. “But since I’ve been posting Branton’s successes on our Facebook community page, people are starting to recognize him and its really awesome. A woman behind the counter at Charlie Grangers recognized him recently, and she said ‘I know you, you’re the kid that fishes.’” Yep, he’s a kid that fishes. And how.
The younger Champion, 15, and a sophomore at Richmond Hill High School, finished second in the Georgia High School Kayak Bass Fishing State Championship at Lake Sinclair this year. What’s more, after six tournaments he finished the Angler of the Year race in second place.
Branton Champion’s success may have been preordained or a part of his DNA, given his father’s standing in the sport. The two have been wetting hooks together just about as long as the younger Champion has been around.
“He’s been around it his whole life, and I started him fishing when he was 2. I guess the apple didn’t fall far from the tree,” said his father, adding he’s proud of his son’s achievements. “You always want to see your kids succeed. It can be hard to watch them grow up, but at the same time it’s very humbling and makes you very proud to see them do good, especially in something you love.”
Branton, meanwhile, said he’s having the time of his life.
“It’s been awesome, going to all those places, and it’s been a great time with my dad, too. Now I’m hoping next season to improve even more and win the Angler of the Year Title. Long term, hopefully I’ll be able to fish at the college level.”
Like any outdoor sport, angling comes with its own set of thrills, disappointments, and life lessons.
“Setting the hook is one of the biggest adrenaline rushes,” Branton said. “Whenever you feel the fish bite and set the hook, it’s the best feeling. But it can also be annoying sometimes, when a big bite gets off. You stick it and think this is it and celebrate too soon, and then the fish throws the hook and you go from good to bad. You’ve got to have patience, definitely. Fishing teaches you patience and it can humble you very quickly.”
The younger Champion sounds a bit like his father, who competes in the sport internationally.
“Fishing will teach you patience more than anything,” Ron said. “To me, when I’m out there on the water, and even though I’m competing and I want to win, there’s just something about being out in God’s creation. It’s very peaceful, and I have a lot of conversations with God and it’s not about catching fish. I’m very thankful for my family and that my kids get to share in the sport I love. Fishing teaches great values.”
Nowadays, bass fishing is also a sanctioned sport at the high school level. And it’s probably no surprise the Champions are helping get it launched at RHHS, where student anglers can fish in the Bass Boat Division or Kayak Division, or both.
“There’s excitement brewing about it, we have about 20 anglers competing in the first year and we’ll probably have a few more before the season starts,” Ron said. “For our first year of this, that’s pretty fantastic. We’re going to build a winning program at Richmond Hill High School.”
There are rules to follow, of course, but the idea is to make it as accessible to as many students as possible.
“Kids do have to keep a 2.0 grade point average to stay eligible, and we follow all Student Angler Federation rules,” the elder Champion said. “We really wanted to have kayak fishing a part of the fishing team. We don’t want to limit kids on what they can and can’t do. The kayak side is more economical to get into. And once you get people into a kayak, where you’re so close to the water and so close to the fish and fighting them, and the fish is throwing water on you and the boat is spinning around, you’re kind of at the will of the fish, it’ll change their mind about kayak fishing.”