Jason Meder thought he had the edge. The 40-year-old Seminole man had strategically positioned himself on the bow of the boat, with the wind at his back, so his bait would fly just a little bit farther than his son's.
Meder isn't a bad dad, just a good angler, looking for every bit of help he can get on a windy day when the fish were not cooperating.
But Meder had taught his boy well. The 14-year-old lives, eats and breathes fishing. Jacob, a ninth-grader at Northside Christian School in St. Petersburg, didn't let any of his dad's tactics bother him.
He let the old man have the prime casting spot, knowing that his young eyes would more than make up for any advantage offered by a few extra feet of casting distance.
The elder Meder, director of sales for Cox Media Group, had asked his son to come along and "prefish" the annual 102.5 The Bone Fishing Slam. The Father's Day weekend fishing tournament, one of the largest multispecies events on Florida's west coast, is a family affair. Last year, more than 400 boats targeting everything from cobia to sheepshead, turned out for this extravaganza.
"It is a real family-oriented event," said Jason, a member of the Old Salt Fishing Club. "We get lots of kids who participate."
And there is no greater thrill for a father than to watch his little son or daughter catch a big fish. But the key word here is "little."
Once a boy hits his teenage years, it's "game on." There's no more baiting hooks, tying knots or comforting words of encouragement.
It's take no prisoners. Offer no quarter.
This may seem a little extreme, perhaps even cruel, especially on the eve of Father's Day, but that's how my old man rolled, and I feel obliged to carry on the tradition.
Sure, he acted like he wanted me to catch the biggest fish. But that was before I started trash-talking like an NFL cornerback and slapping the deck with 5-pounders.
I still remember the glare in my old man's ice-blue eyes that day I showed him how to properly use a topwater plug.
If the roles had been reversed, I would have gone home and filed down the hooks on his Rapala, maybe even tied a few "wind" knots in his line, or done just about anything, to put the little whippersnapper in his place.
But my father, like Jason Meder, was a better man than me. So instead of blushing in shame and hiding his face as he held a popsicle trout, he squared his shoulders and stood proud while son Jacob showed off a true yellowmouth.
"Let me get a shot of both of you holding your fish," I told Jason. "You know … big and little …"
Jason offered a sheepish grin, knowing the photo would make the rounds of the radio station and undoubtedly make him the subject of playful banter for Cox Radio's colorful DJs, not known for their subtlety.
"That photo may come back and haunt you," I told Jason.
"It's a Father's Day tournament," he said. "Hopefully it will inspire somebody to take their kids fishing."