Following Grandfather’s Footsteps……A Champion’s Dream Come True
Captain Eris Jones is a well known competitor on the Southern Kingfish Tournament tour. In 2015, Eris was the SKA National Champion and in 2019 he was the winner of the SKA Division 9 Single Engine prize. And thanks to that win, Eris had a great year. But if you talk to him, he’ll tell you there is another reason he had a great year of fishing. This year his 11 year old grandson, Laken Faulk joined him on the boat at the SKA events. Eris was quick to tell me that this was a dream come true. During the conversation I couldn’t help but notice the admiration the 2 had for each other. I was there the day Eris won the National Championship in Morehead City, NC in 2015. But not even that day could surpass the look of pride that he had on his face while he and Laken stood side by side after the Friday day of fishing in this year’s U.S. Open King Mackerel Tournament.
Meeting Laken was much like meeting a younger version of Eris. The mannerly young man was enjoyable to talk to and it was easy to see how he made the Beta Club at North Duplin Elementary. He was a young man that clearly took his grandfather’s direction and was mature beyond his years. Laken told me that in addition to his love of fishing he also had a love of both baseball and football. I asked him what he loved most about fishing and he said to me, “you never know what you’re going to catch.” It was easy to see why his grandfather was so proud. Laken was now part of the SKA Junior Division finishing 4th in division 9 as well as being on the winning Division 9 Single Engine winning team. What a first year! This is due to his maturity and desire to take his grandfather’s advice and support, and most of all Eris allowing him to be a part of his competitive fishing world. That alone is a great “life lesson.”
For me, the real story here was the bond that fishing had created between these 2 generations. I could see this in the eyes of my friend, Eris. It was the way that he looked proudly at his grandson and how he talked about him with so much appreciation and admiration. This relationship was far more important and valuable to him than fishing itself.
I shouldn’t be surprised that Eris would consider this a “dream of a lifetime.” I think it’s a dream that nearly every grandfather has. I know I do. Fishing with my grandson is an important part of my life. I rarely miss a chance to take him and he never turns me down. It precious time that we spend without the distractions of TV, cell phones and and even the presence of others. It was the same with my grandfather when we fished the ponds of western North Carolina with cane poles and worms on those hot summer days. Fishing creates special bonds between us Grand Dads, Grand Paws or in my case Paw Paws that few other things can do. It gives us the chance to watch our grandsons grow strong before our eyes and allows them see us age gracefully before their eyes. It’s a time when respect is earned by both sides and memories are made that will last forever.
My grandfather passed away long before my fishing career began. He missed my days as a guide and those great milestones like the day I caught a giant Bluefin Tuna. While I know he would have been proud then, I think he was just as proud of that 3 pound catfish I caught at 10 years old. He looked at me that day with the same sense of pride that Eris had for Laken that day during the U.S. Open King Mackerel Tournament. It was about a grandfather sharing something special with a person that’s one of the most special person in his life. It’s a feeling that only a grandfather knows. One that lasts longer than prize money, trophies and titles. Eris and Laken are both winners in each other’s eyes and that’s what really matters.