How to Fish for the REALLY Big Ones – Without Bait!

By Mark Timm, CEO Ziglar Family

For as far back as I can remember, I would go fishing with my grandparents over the summer.  It started when I would get out of school just before the long Memorial Day weekend.

First, my parents would take me to my great-grandpa Charlie’s for a week; after that, I would go to my grandpa Wade’s for a week, and then I’d finish with my grandpa Bob for a week. If it was one of those extra-special summers, I would get to turn around and do the whole rotation again!

What’s funny is that I thought I had the coolest parents for letting me do this; now that I am a parent, I can just imagine how much they loved that I wanted to do it!

So my earliest memories of summer are of being with my great-grandpa Charlie, where we would fish just about anywhere we could wet a line — even if it was just the little creek in front of his house.

A few years after he passed away, a new tradition started—and lasted more than a decade—with my grandpa Bob. We fished on Memorial Day, catching enough fish for a big fish fry that night.

Now that I’m a father myself, I plan to spend my Memorial Day weekends and Father’s Day weekends fishing with my kiddos — and hopefully one day with their kids — for as long as they’ll fish with me. Because, you see, that’s how these traditions work.

In reality, though, this is not only about tradition; this is about the fact that they taught me how to catch the really big ones in life, and although the lessons happened with a fishing pole in their hands, many times they had nothing to do with catching fish.

Life Lessons Learned from a Master Fisherman

Not long ago, I was sharing with my wife and daughter about how my great-grandpa Charlie would take me fishing every chance he got. I suddenly got really choked up as I realized I hadn’t shared with them why he would take me fishing.

In all those years I spent fishing with him, it turns out we were fishing for two completely different things.  I was fishing for big fish, but he was fishing for my soul.

It was only after many years of fishing with him that I finally started to realize that he didn’t even put any bait on his hook!

It’s funny that it took me so long to realize; I guess I just assumed I was a much better fisherman than he was! But the last few times I went with him, I was an older teenager, and I paid attention.

That’s when I noticed that he didn’t have bait on his hook. And I noticed he would always make sure I had the best spot to drop my bait.

While we were fishing, he would talk to me and share with me the wisdom of his life.

He taught me about hard work—that hard work was never really hard; it was healthy.

He taught me to care about others first before I could share with others.

We talked about equality of all people.

He told me stories of his childhood and what he had learned.

And, of course, his favorite subject was his bride of 60-plus years.

By the time he passed away, this man — whose formal education stopped at the 8th grade, but who never stopped learning— taught me about love, laughter, respect, responsibility and faith.

Thankfully, at some point I started to write some of his wisdom down, and I have notes and a few stories to pull from to this day. With each year, as I get older, his wisdom becomes more powerful.

The reason I get choked up when I think about him and our times fishing is that now I fully realize that fishing was just the excuse he needed to catch me!

All the many miles we walked, and those countless hours we talked, he knew exactly what he was fishing for, and he didn’t need any worms or minnows on his hook.  He was fishing for me, my future wife, and my future kids. Even more, he was fishing for the future of my soul.

Well, Grandpa Charlie, as you smile down from Heaven, I want you to know that on this Memorial Day I will again take my kiddos fishing, and in your honor, I promise not to use any bait.

I will just be fully present in order to land the biggest catch of my life—them—and I’ll continue to share with them all that I’ve learned from you!

What life lessons have you learned from family members who invested the time to teach you? How are you using your time to invest in your own children and grandchildren?





  1. Cliff Feightner May 28, 2017 at 7:45 am - Reply

    To fishing they would go
    Their lines, in the creek, they would throw
    What gave him delight
    If the fish didn’t bite
    Was the soul, he had, in tow

  2. Amy May 31, 2017 at 5:37 pm - Reply

    That was beautiful. I take my grandson fishing often. He loves to fish. I had never quite thought of it as time to be fishing for his soul, but I do consider it a special opportunity to bond with a 15 year old who has nothing much in common with me. I will be praying for opportunities to fish for his soul, while enjoying the time together throwing in the line. I have to say though, I guess maybe I am a bit more competitive than your grandpa. We enjoy challenging each other, to see who can catch the biggest/ most fish. He always wins, but I don’t care…. Its the bonding time that counts.

  3. Philip June 24, 2017 at 10:50 am - Reply

    Wow, this is a great story. Thank you for sharing and reminding me of my most important responsibility. My family!

Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.