The Elite Tour through the Eyes of Children

Life on the road can be pretty grueling when you live out of a suitcase traveling thousands of miles in the few short months making up a tournament season. If you add a wife and two young children to the mix, stress levels getting everyone ready to travel could rise like the sun on a clear spring day! We have all heard from fisherman and their wives about the life of a bass tournament angler, but never from the child’s prospective, so I thought it would be fun to see the Elite Tour through the eyes of children. Olivia and Lilly Walker, daughters of Elite Pro David Walker, told me how it works for them. I hope you enjoy learning what life is like for an 11 and 7-year-old when they travel on the pro circuit with their parents.

The Elite Tour through the Eyes of Children

The Elite Tour through the Eyes of Children

There are several families who travel together, home school their children, and travel the miles their husband/father do for his job as an Elite or FLW Angler. These families often make it work like a well-oiled machine. In most tournament angler families, only the angler travels unless it comes down to the Bassmaster Classic or the FLW Cup and then the family travels with them. David and Misty Walker make it work with David fishing and Misty holding down the home front. I spoke with Misty about what it takes for her to get her family ready to travel with David in their 5th wheel RV. We also discussed why their family has made the choice not to travel full time with David.

BS: What does it take to get you, Lilly, Olivia, ready to travel with David?

The Elite Tour through the Eyes of Children

MW: This trip took us a little longer than usual to get packed. David and I recently traded in our fifth wheel for a new one. It has a different lay out, which is better suited for the girls. I loved our old one, but the girls are getting bigger and as often as we travel, they needed their own space. This one has a den, almost like a bunk house but a little different. The den is their “room” and it has its own bathroom, which is a bonus for a family of 3 girls. So when it came to packing up, we had everything in boxes from our last camper that we had to move back in. Like the bathroom supplies, kitchen pots and pans, plates, cups, etc. and the outside supplies from chairs, rug, hoses, grill, girls outside toys…. All that stuff had to be loaded again. These items we usually leave in the camper. This camper has an outdoor kitchen, which is such a great feature – something when you see it you think, “why doesn’t every camper have this.” So after all the normal stuff that stays in the camper was loaded, I then pack all Lilly’s, Olivia’s and my clothes. The girls pack their toys and games they want to bring and I stock the fridge and pantry. I load everything in clothes baskets, that’s how I bring everything in and out of the camper. I usually make around thirty trips. I’m not going to lie – two of those trips are just my shoes! David packs his clothes, which he can do in one trip, and then he spends a couple of days loading his tackle in the truck and boat. He could easily get his tackle packed in one day, but as soon as he picks the girls up from school they take the river boat out behind the house and go fishing.

BS: What do you have to do once you get to the campground to set up and get things running, like a normal house?

The Elite Tour through the Eyes of Children

MW: It’s hard to pick out a campsite from the computer, so when we arrive at the campground David usually leaves the truck with the camper parked and we all get in the truck with the boat. We take a lap around the campground to find a spot that will work for us. David looks for a site big enough for the camper, boat and 2 trucks, the girls look for a site close to the playground and I look for a site where there are no creepers. “Creeper – a word used by the girls and I when there is weird man camping alone that likes to stare at you.” Once we have a spot picked out we, get the camper set up. David can do this very quickly – which is nice. We get the boat and trucks arranged, David sets up the outside and I get the inside set up. Once everything is set up, it goes pretty smooth for us. I usually buy groceries before we leave so the girls and I don’t have to make a trip to the grocery store until day three or four. Meals are pretty simple, cereal, cinnamon rolls, donuts or grits for breakfast, sandwiches (cut in to shapes, even mine) for lunch and for dinner we try to grill as much as we can so burgers, hotdog’s, pork chops etc.

The thing I love most about having a camper is being able to cook. We did the whole hotel life; I would have to get up early with David each day to take him to the lake – which was fine until we had kids. Having to wake babies/toddlers up at 5am to drive to the ramp would be such a long day. By the time I would get back to the hotel and try to put the girls back down housekeeping would be outside your room. I am convinced if you have the “Do Not Disturb” sign out, they are extra loud! Also, David would have to cut his practice days short so he could come in at a normal time because we would have to go eat dinner. So now David leaves the camper between 5-5:30am and gets back around 7pm. As for the girls and I, we wake up on our watch and start our day. If we eat dinner before David gets in it works out fine because I have a way to warm everything back up! My favorite part of the camper is having a washer & dryer – which are huge when you spend as much time on the road as we do. This camper’s washer & dryer are different from our last one, so it took me a minute or two to figure it out!

Now before someone writes a comment “It must be nice” let me just say I have defiantly put in my dues at laundry mats and not the glamorous ones. Some of the lakes we have visited in the past would not be in the best of towns – I would spend my day with a baby, a toddler and bags full of dirty clothes in a laundry mat I wouldn’t even recommend to people I dislike.

BS: How do bed times and such change when you are on the road vs. being home?

MW: David is defiantly the first one to fall asleep, usually around 9:30. He gets text messages until 11…I answer those text and pretend to be him. As for the girls and I, they usually stay up until 10. We watch movies or they play on their iPads. I’m the last to sleep, I cannot fall a sleep until everyone else is a sleep – the joys of being a MOM!

The Elite Tour through the Eyes of Children

Lilly is the eldest (age 11) of the two Walker girls, she is a volleyball star at her school and also has a love for fishing. Lilly appears to always be calm, cool, and collected. I asked Lilly a few questions about tournament life from her point of view, nothing like seeing things through the eyes of a child.

BS: What is it like to travel to a BASS Elite tournament to watch your daddy fish?

Lilly: It’s fun because I like traveling, especially going camping! Also, I get to miss school, which is a bonus!

BS: Do you think you would like to travel all the time with your dad and family? Would you like living in the RV?

Lilly: No, because I like living at home. The camper is nice for a week or two but living in it… Olivia would get on my nerves and I would not be able to play volleyball like I do now…which is kind of….everyday!

BS: Do you like getting up early to watch blast off?

Lilly: We usually only go to take off for the Classic or if Daddy makes the cut. If Daddy starts on a spot that we have access to where we can see him, we have gone there in the morning and cheered him on.

BS: Tell me about what it is like having your daddy be a super fisherman?

Lilly: I don’t see him like that; he’s just my dad. I see him as a dad who takes me to school and picks me up when he is home. A dad who plays with me, works with me on volleyball, gives me advice, teaches me to do certain things so when he is gone I can help out…like how to charge the battery in the gate.

BS: What do you do during the day while your dad fishes?

Lilly: All kinds of stuff, Olivia and I play, ride our bikes, and play on the playground. My mom takes us fishing because usually we stay at a campground on the water. This time was fun because we got to play in the water and sand. I brought my volleyballs so I practiced setting and bumping.

BS: Do you like fishing yourself?

Lilly: Yes, especially when they are biting.

BS: Tell me about your experience going to the Guntersville tournament during Spring Break, what would you tell the world about the tournament and about your daddy’s fishing?

Lilly: I think it would be weird not going to a tournament for Spring Break because spring time is when it’s the busiest time of year for tournaments. My dad will only be home to watch one of my spring volleyball games this year, just one.

BS: How do you feel when your dad goes on stage to weigh his fish?

Lilly: I feel proud of my dad every time he walks on stage, even when he does not do as well as he would have liked to. I know what he puts in to each and every tournament and no matter what the scales say, I could not be more proud to call him my dad.

The Elite Tour through the Eyes of Children

BS: Tell me what you do to get ready to go, what you do at night, do you help your dad get his tackle ready for the next day, or help your mom cook supper? Do you have chores to do when you travel?

Lilly: I pull the line off of daddy’s reels so he can re-spool them. I sit in the boat with him when he is working on tackle and just talk or watch him tie on different lures. He walks me through everything he does and why he is doing it. Also, on practice days I make daddy sandwiches, he does not eat on tournament days – because this is no picnic, he’s got fish to catch.

BS: Who fishes better you, Olivia or Mom?

Lilly: Me because I got skill! [I like Lilly’s spunk and confidence, we should all learn from her]

BS: Since your Dad competes for a living what advice has he given you for Volleyball?

Lilly: I started playing Club volleyball two years ago and my first season I spent more time sitting on the bench then playing. I hated it. My dad told me I was the only one that could change that, he also told me I will learn more when I lose then I will when I win. I thought OK. But he was right; I know what I did wrong when I do it. My dad has to practice a lot; the only difference is he doesn’t play on a team. He has taught me that just because I’m good at something doesn’t mean I don’t have to practice. Teams change, the players change so I have to keep practicing. It would be like oh, he’s fished Kentucky Lake a hundred times, he doesn’t have to practice – well the lake changes, the fish change, and the patterns change. He also taught me to believe in myself because he believes in me.

Olivia, age 7, is the youngest daughter and one with the cute bow in her hair and the cutest glasses ever! Olivia seems to keep the Walker’s on their toes and her best friend is a 90lb Doberman named Deuce.

BS: What is the coolest thing about your dad’s fishing job?

Olivia: He gets to travel to a lot of different places and we get to go with him when Lilly and I don’t have school. He also gets to go on stage and drive a monster truck.

BS: Would you like living in the RV?

Olivia: Live in our camper? No, because Lilly would get on my nerves and I would not get to have my dog Deuce (90 lb. Doberman). He’s not allowed to go camping with us because he stares at people and they get scared.

BS: Do you like getting up early to watch blast off?

Olivia – What’s blast off? (Lilly chimes in – “take off Olivia”) Olivia – Oh, sometimes we go, it’s a little hard to see Daddy because a lot of people are there and if it’s cold Daddy tells us not to go. Lilly and I give Daddy good luck hugs before we go to bed. [The girls always put good luck drawings with lots of glitter and love in the top of their dad’s storage boxes so when he opens them to get stuff out, he will be reminded how much his girls love him and how proud they are of him and what he does for their family]

BS: What do you do during the day while your dad fishes?

Olivia: I play with Lilly and Mommy. We ride bikes, go to the park, play monkey in the middle, go exploring, and go fishing. This campground has a beach area so mommy takes us there to play in the sand and water.

BS: Do you like fishing yourself?

Olivia: Yes, everyone always ask me that. I think it’s weird if you don’t like to go fishing. Who doesn’t like to go fishing. (Lilly chimes in and say’s “a tree hugger”. Olivia laughs but has no idea what Lilly is talking about…I don’t think Lilly does either, now they both are laughing.) [Little do they know I love fishing and I am a tree hugger {chuckle}]

BS: What is the worst part of fishing tournaments?

Olivia: Nothing

BS: How do you feel when your dad goes on stage to weigh his fish?

Olivia: Excited, because I’m happy to see him!

BS: Tell me what you do to get ready to go, what you do at night, do you help your dad with getting tackle ready for the next day or help your mom cook supper? Do you have chores to do when you travel?

Olivia: I wash and rinse the dishes after dinner. I like doing that. I also like to sit in the boat when Daddy is working on tackle, I pick up all daddy’s old worms in the boat, but I have to be careful of hooks.

BS: Who fishes better you, Lilly or Mom?

Olivia: Me, Lilly is going to say she does but I do, for real.

BS: Tell me anything you want to about your week at Lake Guntersville, do you like having a daddy who is famous like a movie star? Anything you want people to know please tell me.

Olivia: Guntersville was fun, there were deer that would come up to our camper at night and Lilly and I would feed them, they really liked bread. We played a lot and went to the weigh in and helped Daddy bag up his fish. Oh, we got to ride up to the stage with Daddy in golf carts. Daddy did really well in the tournament, I was proud of him because he works really hard.

The Elite Tour through the Eyes of Children

David Walker has an amazing wife and daughters; it seems like the perfect little family. David is very committed to his family, when he is off the water; he is doing all the normal dad stuff and then some. Misty keeps things running smooth on the home front when David is traveling; she (Misty) works, keeps things up at home, makes sure the girls are where they need to be, and still has a smile on her face and the best personality.

The Walker family, from the outside looking in, seems to have it together and a strong family bond, which is so refreshing in this day and time when there are so many split families. Many anglers struggle to find the means to fish on the Elite Series and or the FLW Tour circuit, which is why Misty still works; so her family doesn’t have the strain and stress of worrying about where the fishing means will come from each year. David had told me at the classic he struggled in the beginning of his fishing career. Together it seems Misty and David have the perfect plan to keep the family where they need them to be while David fishes and Misty keeps watch at home. The Walker girls are involved in sports, school and fishing! I really enjoyed working with Olivia and Lilly. These girls are amazing!

Betsy Steele

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