Father-son fishing duo Velt and Ke’mari Cooper went viral a few years ago when the latter reeled in a monster seven-pound bass. As Velt filmed the memorable moment, it was his son’s unbridled excitement, “catch” phrase (“show me what you’re working with”), and the fact he released the lunker that hooked the viewing audience.
Now Velt and Ke’mari, 13, have parlayed their love—and knowledge—of bass fishing into national opportunities, like their first teaching seminar at the recent World’s Fishing Fair. The one-of-a-kind event from Bass Pro Shops in April featured seminars, meet-and-greets, concerts and more from stars across the worlds of fishing, hunting, conservation, country music, and NASCAR. And Outsider was there to cover the golden anniversary. We sat down for interviews with fishing legends Bill Dance, Jimmy Houston, and Roland Martin.
And, we caught up to the future of fishing, Velt and Ke’mari Cooper, to ask them 5 Questions about fishing, family, and having fun on the water.
1. How do you get your kids interested in fishing and the outdoors?
Velt Cooper: Well, first thing is you’ve got to have it in yourself. It’s got to start with you. Once you have it in yourself and you have a son or daughter that you want to instill this passion into, you’ve got to make time. No matter if it is 15 minutes, 30 minutes, you got to put that time into him. You got to teach him, practice with him, and show the basics first.
Ke’mari Cooper: You can’t catch a fish right away.
Velt Cooper: You definitely can’t. You got to make sure that you have your line threaded up the proper way. You got to make sure you know how to tie your hook, put your lead on there, and the most important part is casting. But if you’re going to start them at early age like that, it’s going to take time. I got kind of frustrated at the beginning. With him, trying to show him how things supposed to go. But I also had to understand that he’s a child. So I had to hit the reset button, take my time, look at it as a child’s point of view and an adult point of view. And as years progress and he learned how to cast and tie his own line, then I was like, okay, job well done dad.
2. When can you put a fishing rod in a kid’s hands?
Velt Cooper: Age of two. But it’s never too late.
Ke’mari Cooper: Daddy started me off with some earthworms. Get on those bluegills. And later, a spot where them bass be hitting, and [your kids] will be hooked like I did.
3. Teaching a seminar at the World’s Fishing Fair was new for both of you. How does it make you feel as a father, watching your son up there?
Velt Cooper: It’s an amazing feeling. It’s something that I really can’t explain, but I’m also more proud of seeing him turn into the young man that I wanted him to be. He’s everything that I was when I was a little boy, but we just didn’t have the internet to show that. So I’m very proud, super jacked up for the future for Ke’mari. And I can’t be more proud than what I am now. It’s kind of hard to take all this in right now.
4. Lots of great anglers here today. Who do you look up to, Ke’mari?
Ke’mari Cooper: I would probably say Mr. Kevin VanDam. The crankbait man. He taught us all about the crankbait. And if I had to be honest, I didn’t really know too much about the crankbait, ’cause where we’re from in Florida, it’s a bunch of grass. But when it came to a tournament day on Table Rock Lake. He said, “You know what? You want to catch big fish, right? Use the crankbait.” So when we tied on, he got us the crankbait, he showed us a couple of spots. And on tournament day, we tried those spots, [but] no luck. And then, that one time I casted that crankbait under the dock. Medium retrieve. Boom, fast! Tournament winner.
5. What does it mean to you to be a part of Bass Pro Shops 50th anniversary?
Velt Cooper: Bass Pro, it means a lot, just from the main thing conservation, that’s what Johnny Morris preaches about all the time to get out to the other anglers. The way that Johnny treats me and my son, greatest man on earth that we know of. The things that he’s done for us, and how he treats us every time we come into town or if there’s an outside event, the way he treats us, it’s like, it don’t matter how big the crowd is. He always pulls us in. Like this, you know? And that just shows you just how down to earth Johnny is. And to celebrate the 50th anniversary here? It’s amazing. It’s quite a milestone.
Ke’mari Cooper: It’s overwhelming. We never thought we would meet the owner of Bass Pro Shops. And we used to shop at his shop a lot. To be a part of this event, overwhelming. Catch phrase, man, show me what you’re working with.