I weighed in at 50 pounds for my very first title fight with a big fish. But back in the day, fishing wasn’t my favorite activity; this was mainly due to my inability to concentrate on anything for more than 2 ½ minutes. Hunting flickertails, riding my dirt bike, and collecting Wade Boggs rookie cards topped my to-do list. Then one day my parents told my brother and me that we were heading to Alaska for a vacation.

The air was crisp that early-summer morning. I needed energy, so I pounded my usual breakfast: 3 jumbo pancakes and 8 slices of bacon. The river loomed angrily outside. But I wasn’t scared. I zipped up my $4 navy blue rainjacket, slipped on my lucky moon boots, and headed out to the boat.

The place was the Kenai River, and I was looking to pick a fight with a king salmon. After we pushed off, I sat in my seat, clenched my rod, and carefully concentrated, following the line down to where it met the water. I was locked into this position. A grizzly bear could have slapped me in the face and I wouldn’t have flinched. But as the day progressed, I grew weary (some even say I fell asleep). Then, all hell broke loose.

My rod snapped forward and I was jolted toward the stern. Just as I was about to fly overboard, the guide caught my belt loop and dropped me back into my seat. The fight was on. For nearly an hour we battled; I’d gain some territory, then he’d steal it back. My arms went numb and the sweat dripped from my brow as I shed layers of cheap plastic. After what seemed like days, the fish succumbed to the wild child of the Kenai. That whale of a fish weighed 55 pounds.

Somewhere during the heat of battle, a passion for fishing lashed itself tightly around my heart, and from then on it’s fascinated me. So good luck out there, and if you take a kid fishing, make sure he eats a good breakfast first!