To celebrate Mother’s Day, all week long we’ll be publishing a series of stories all about moms––about their companionship in the outdoors, about them encouraging us to hunt and fish, and about how we wouldn’t be where we are, or who we are, without them. Fittingly, we’re calling this series “Thanks, Mom.” 

LaShanne Baker, from Reeltown, Alabama. That’s my mama. She is one of the most grateful and laidback people on the planet—two blessed byproducts of her unfortunate upbringing, no doubt. She doesn’t get all that riled up about the little stuff. Doesn’t even complain about the big stuff. But she does still make her voice heard when she sees the need. And such a need arose when I was around 11 years old.  

See, I’ve fished all my life. I’ve technically been fishing since before I was born, I’m sure, because there’s no doubt Dad had Mom out in the boat when she was pregnant with me. Dad loved to fish––still does. And mom loves him and the water. So they’ve always liked to spend time on the water together. When I was born, not much changed. Even when Mom had to work 7-on-7-off as a nurse when we were kids, Dad got us in the boat any chance he could. His version of “babysitting” was me and my sister tucked under the console, an umbrella shading us on the other side, cookies and Kool-Aid in hand.  

From the beginning, the author and his dad have been fishing buddies. Shaye Baker

Things continued this way throughout my childhood. At some point, my sister got interested in other things, but I continued to drag a cork behind the boat trying to catch a bream until I finally conceded that Dad was never going to slow down long enough for me to drown my cricket. The trolling motor stayed on high most of the time, and he was chucking and winding––a full-bore bass angler by then, with a 1988 Alabama Federation Nation State Championship title to his name.  

If I were to fish with him, I would have to learn to bass fish. And if we were bass fishing, it would be with a baitcaster. So, I cut my teeth on bass gear young, and it wasn’t long before Dad and I were fishing tournaments together.  

Some of my favorite memories are of those first Wednesday night tournaments on the Middle Pond—otherwise known as Yates Lake just south of Lake Martin on the Tallapoosa River. I was maybe 10 or 11 when we fished our first one together, when Mom let me fish with Dad from 6 to 10 PM…on a school night. 

Needless to say, this was after my bedtime. But Mom allowed it—as long as my grades didn’t drop. But you can probably tell where this story is going: My grades did drop. I came home with a B on my report card. It was my first B ever, so I wasn’t all that concerned. But Mom sure was.  

“You’re grounded,” she said.  

The way she tells it, it wasn’t the B that bothered her as much as the grades dropping overall. I was down 22 points across the board—from 98 to 92 in one subject, 96 to 91 in another, and so on. And that was it. Until I got my grades back up, I could kiss fishing goodbye—including those privileged Wednesday night derbies with Dad.  

The author proudly, and deservedly, smiles as the valedictorian at his high-school graduation. Shaye Baker

I was not happy about it, but you don’t have much veto power at that age, so I got back after my grades. Within a month or so, I was getting straight A’s again—and the ban was lifted. I could fish again.  

My grades never really dropped after that, I made sure of it. A few more Bs came along later in life, but I finished my high-school career as valedictorian—an achievement I’m very thankful for, and one I credit to my mom.  

It may seem a bit odd for this essay—one about moms on Mother’s Day—to have the “fun” part centered around my relationship with my dad and the tough-love part to appear to be my mom’s doing. But that’s looking at things on the surface, and kind of the point of me telling it this way.  

As good as my relationship is with my dad, the one I have with my mom is different. It’s multifaceted and has a depth all its own. She was the disciplinarian more so than my dad at times. But there was always love, wisdom, and great intentions in her actions and decisions. Those things are hard for a boy to spot. But as a man now looking back, I recognize them well. And I’m grateful for them.  

The stories I tell and the experiences I remember often center around some escapade of mine and my dad’s, and our shared love of fishing. But I’m as much the man I am on account of my mom as anyone.