Lessons from the Man Cave - It's All About the Kids
All of our Gov Cup teams have well-established personalities or reputations that follow them from tournament to tournament. Whether a quirk, a character, or a story, these unique markers help to identify individuality among the fleet - the Tina’s Trippin’ is rowdy (#WhoYouWith), the Cluster Fish values a good hot dog, and the Home Run’s got cobras and Grumpy Grant. But, when we think of the Man Cave, the kids are definitely the first to come to mind.
Billy and Sara Gressette’s pewter gray Spencer is playground to their four young daughters, Anna, Julia, Leila, and June. As you pass by the Man Cave, little ones can be seen leaning against the transom with Uncrustables in hand while a trio of mates rig and ready for the next day of fishing. Tiny hands clutch collections of stickers and goodies gathered from boat bags and tournament sponsors. And a trail of pony tails, Man Cave performance shirts, and bare feet follow Sara everywhere she goes. When we asked Billy and Sara about why it’s so important to fish with family, they said, “We love the time we get to spend together on the water, which gives us a chance to separate from the distractions of the world and just enjoy our time together. We both were blessed to have plenty of different experiences on the water when we were young, which included water skiing on the lakes, cruising the waterways around Charleston and offshore fishing. We want our kids to have those same memories.”
Among those happy family dynamics grows a healthy culture of competitiveness in sportfishing. And that’s not just limited to their own children. This year, the Gressettes have also had Tim Gredick’s son, Will, on the rod during tournaments. Earlier this season, Will took home Bohicket’s first place youth angler award while fishing with the Man Cave. More recently, he and 9-year-old Julia Gressette took first and second place during last week’s Carolina Billfish Classic.
Although Will and Julia are competing against each other during tournaments, they still support one another when battling fish, changing luck or working the deck. “Julia, Leila, and I are a good team in the cockpit and we all want each other to land fish. We have fun dunking our heads in ice water buckets when the fishing is slow,” explained Will. “I enjoy helping Julia when she is hooked up - she is a good angler. When we are not hooked up, we all help by getting baits out of the cooler, shagging grass on the flat lines and cranking the weed off the lures.” Julia, who comes across as mature, centered, and demure, characteristics rather astounding for a 9 year old, expressed similar sentiments about fishing with a fellow youth angler. “It is fun! We like to compete with each other and it gives me someone to hang out with,” she said. In a time when camaraderie can be tough to find, we’re proud to see it so aptly executed among such young people.
During the Carolina Billfish Classic, both Will and Julia wracked up some impressive billfish releases over the course of the two days of fishing. The seas were rough on the first day, forcing the two youngsters to step up to the plate in difficult conditions. “I'm glad Man Cave has a Seakeeper because Friday was really rough. Most of the waves were way over my head and we had a few break into the cockpit! Some of our crew were sea sick so we had to work hard to keep the lines in. My first sailfish was early and wasn’t too tough of a fight, but the second sail took most of the spool and was about 80 lbs. It was hard to stand up with the seas when I was reeling it in,” Will recalled. “Saturday we got double header sailfish - I had one and Mrs. Sara had the other. Mrs. Sara’s fish went left and stayed on top jumping, my fish jumped a few times and went deep. I think having head sets on helped us get the double. I could tell Mr. Billy if I could get line or he needed to slow down if I couldn’t keep up. It was awesome to land a double!”
Julia, hungry for a billfish release, awaited her moment to get on the rod on the final day of fishing in the tournament. She had tangled with a sailfish the day before, where the fish quickly swam at the boat and unfortunately tossed the hook. Recalling his daughter’s anguish over losing the fish, Billy said, “The agony of losing a fish for a 9 year old is real hard especially in a tournament, but she recovered well and she learned from her mistakes. She proved herself worthy and we gave her a second shot which is very bold but it makes the catch even sweeter. The development of our next generation is more important than tournament results and honestly I have to be reminded of that virtue sometimes.” Fiercely determined and energized in the last couple hours before lines out, Julia battled a big sail while Will helped on the sidelines. Will said, “She fought the fish well and I helped with keeping the chair pointed at the fish and took pictures for the tournament.” Julia released the nice sail, earning her the second place youth angler title and securing the Man Cave’s spot in the top ten boats of the Series so far.
There’s no question that teamwork paved the way for these kids and their successes. They’re being exposed to new challenges while fishing with family and friends aboard the Man Cave, and learning that working together, even as competitors, is fun and rewarding. “Offshore fishing is very complicated and requires hard work but it provides a great experience for our kids to learn sportsmanship, team work, leadership, and how to pursue excellence,” shared Billy and Sara.
Congratulations to Will, Julia, and the rest of the Man Cave team! We’re looking forward to seeing y’all in Edisto. Will won’t be able to fish the event, but he sent us this message: “I hope Julia or Leila get first place youth angler. Go MAN CAVE!” Well, you heard him. Go get ‘em girls!
The Teaser is a series dedicated to showcasing the stories of the Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series and its lively community. The Gov Cup was created several decades ago to encourage the conservation of ocean resources through the tagging and release of billfish. Learn more here.