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Of faithful fathers and fishing reels

There’s a lot to be said about fathers. From a societal perspective, there are untold benefits to having one in your life. Children with loving, caring fathers are more likely to thrive. Boys are more likely to stay out of trouble with a father in the home. Girls are less likely to become pregnant as teenagers. In general, it’s a good thing to have a dad around.

Those of us fortunate enough to know our dads already knew that. My father did all the big things right when I was child. He was around, he was involved, he disciplined us and he loved us. If I were handing out grades, he would get an A.

But the thing I remember most from my childhood is none of those things. I most remember all the times he took me fishing. My father was a professional-fisherman wanna-be. He spent as much time on the water as he could, and took my sister and me with him most of the time. He lived to fish. Our family TV time even revolved around fishing shows. We literally just watched other people catch fish on TV — that’s how much he loved it.

I remember him heading to a local lake before work in the summers, catching a stringer full of bass, cleaning them and then driving to his job at the foundry 10 miles away. We fished in little farm ponds, lakes, creeks, anything with water. We were not well-off financially, but we always had a boat.

To say that fishing was a big part of my childhood would be an understatement. It’s the one thing we could always do as a family, even as my sister and I grew into teenagers and resisted most family outings.

My favorite place to fish was a tiny farm pond on our family’s property. It was so small, we could cast clear across it to the other bank if we tried hard enough.

No matter where we fished, we just about always caught something. I didn’t realize then how rare that was, or how good of a fisherman my father was.

Through most of my childhood years, I fished with a Zebco 33. For those of you unfamiliar with the reel, it’s a basic tool that does its one job well. The iconic reel was invented back in 1954 by the Zero Hour Bomb Co. The company originally built time bombs for the oil industry.

It is not a fancy piece of fishing gear, but mine never failed me.  Never back-lashed. Never broke. Never let me down.  As I grew older I thought I needed something nicer, so I traded the Zebco for a Daiwa bait-casting reel.  And I went fishing with friends more often than I went with my dad. At some point, most boys get the idea they no longer need their father. I was no different. But I didn’t catch more fish.

Fifteen years later, my oldest son’s first piece of fishing gear was a Spiderman reel made by Zebco. It was a sad excuse for a rod and reel, but he did not care.

He soon caught his first fish and was hooked. My other children have taken a similar path, though most of them have moved on from the Spiderman gear.

We don’t fish as much as I did growing up, but we wet a hook as often as we can. And though I could reach for more expensive gear, I often take an old Zebco my father gave me years ago.

Its metal housing and simple design leave much to be desired aesthetically, but it works whether I’m using a minnow for white perch, liver for catfish or a top-water plug for bass. It just works.

Good dads are a lot like Zebco reels. Not too fancy. Hard working. Consistent. They do their jobs well. If my children can look back in 30 years and say I’m as good as an old piece of reliable fishing gear, I’ll be a happy man.

Publisher Luke Horton can be reached at luke.horton@dailyleader.com.