Natalie Peterson fished a lot as a kid. Now she's more of a fishing mom — not only to her son, Troy, 19, but to boatloads of young anglers from central Minnesota who are members of the Brainerd Warriors Fishing Team.
Which, in a world hungry these days for upbeat developments, is good news indeed.
Because in microcosm, Natalie and her husband, Mike, who is a Warriors team coach, and their son are representative of a movement in Minnesota and nationwide that gives lie to the notion that kids today are interested only in their phones and social media, and not in outdoor activities — fishing and hunting, specifically.
Arguably, in fact, thanks to ever-expanding competitive shooting and fishing opportunities for middle-school and high-school students, more Minnesota kids today are more knowledgeable about guns and gun safety, and fish and fishing, than ever in the state's history.
Evidence of this will be on display Friday through Sunday at the Northwest Sportshow (northwestsportshow.com), which resumes at the Minneapolis Convention Center this year after a two-year, pandemic-induced layoff.
At the show, kids and their parents can rub shoulders with pro anglers and their student proteges at an exhibit called Fishing 101. Boat-maker Lund is a major sponsor of the attraction, which is intended to entertain kids while also hooking them on fishing.
It's all part of the Student Angler Tournament Trail (SATT, mnsatt.org), one of a handful of learn-while-competing-on-the-water fishing opportunities Minnesota kids have these days.
This summer, SATT, which is affiliated with the national Student Angler Federation (highschoolfishing.org), will offer a raft of Minnesota tournaments for kids and their "captains,'' or boat drivers: June 5 on Mille Lacs; June 12 on Minnetonka; June 26 on Leech Lake; July 10 on Gull Lake; July 24 on Mille Lacs; and Aug. 7 on Pools 4 and 5 of the Mississippi River.
Two-person angler teams finishing in the top 10% among competitors in each event qualify for the Tournament of Champions Aug. 21 on Lake Vermilion. And a two-day team fishing championship, in which each school can enter up to three two-person teams, will follow on Big Stone Lake Sept. 10-11.
Last year, 652 kids representing as many as 150 schools from Rochester to International Falls fished in at least one SATT event, a number that doesn't include student anglers who competed in tournaments sponsored by other organizations.
Some SATT youth fishing teams have as few as eight or 10 members. The Brainerd Warrior squad has 125.
Cost to fish in a SATT event is $20 per student. Boat captains, who often double as volunteer team coaches, must be at least 19 years old.
"In our Warriors club, we offer kids fishing opportunities from fifth and sixth grade through their senior year in high school,'' said Natalie Peterson, who is the volunteer SATT president. "In our tournament trail events, anglers who compete must be in grades nine through 12, though seventh- and eighth-graders can compete with a partner who is older.''
Troy Peterson started fishing with the Brainerd Warriors in sixth grade. Throughout middle school and high school, he had the same fishing partner, Cole Larkin of Brainerd, and Troy's dad was the boys' captain throughout.
"I really enjoyed it, particularly when we got to high school and could fish a lot of tournaments,'' Troy said. "My dad was always there with us, driving the boat, and we qualified for the High School Fishing World Finals and National Championships, traveling one year to Ohio to compete and other years to Alabama and South Carolina.''
SATT tourneys target largemouth and smallmouth bass. But fish aren't weighed at the end of a day's competition. No bass even land in live wells. Instead, kids use their phone cameras to photograph their fish, while an app on their phones measures and weighs the catches.
"The same app allows the kids' parents and grandparents to follow the action onshore, using their phones,'' Natalie Peterson said.
SATT tourneys are open to all kids, girls as well as boys. A plus for participants is that physical stature, which often determines success in prep sports such as basketball and football, isn't a factor in fishing.
Another benefit is that student fishing-team gatherings often occur in winter as well as summer, when kids and their coaches meet either to fish or, in more classroom-like settings, to learn about fish and how to catch them.
Season-ending awards banquets are sometimes part of the fun, too.
Best might be that students' parents often are closely involved, forging bonds that can last lifetimes.
"Now that I'm out of high school, my dad and I will be fishing Minnesota BASS Nation tournaments together this summer,'' Troy Peterson said.
Thanks to support from sponsors such as Lund, Rapala, Shimano and Scheels sporting goods, raffles are held annually to award college and other scholarships to top SATT anglers.
Last year more than $52,000 was given out.
The scholarships are awarded to kids who finish in the top echelon of anglers competing in the Tournament of Champions.
"This year among other prizes we're raffling a Lund boat, motor and trailer,'' Peterson said. "Tickets are $20. Five dollars goes to school teams to support them, $5 goes to SATT for administration and $10 to our scholarship fund.''
Kids who stop by the Fishing 101 exhibit at the Sportshow can cast to monster (magnetized) fish in "LUNDker Lake'' and also can test their skills "flipping'' bass lures at targets. Fishing pros also will be on hand to offer advice and encouragement.
What: Northwest Sportshow
Where: Minneapolis Convention Center.
When: Friday, noon-9 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Admission: Tickets this year are online only at northwestsportshow.com. Adult admission is $12. Kids 12 and under are free with paid adult admission.