It seems to be in his genes. His grandfather, Bob Saathoff of Topeka, is a consummate hunter and largemouth bass fisherman. In addition, his father, Shawn, is a talented and ardent hunter and largemouth bass fisherman.
In mid-July at Wilson Lake, Justin exhibited his innate talents while participating with his dad in a bass fishing tournament sponsored by the Kansas chapter of the Like Father, Like Son tournament circuit. And his dad displayed a lot of tender and competent nurturing of Justin's burgeoning abilities.
Here's how that tournament unfolded:
Justin and his father left Lawrence at 5:30 p.m. and drove west, towing their big Stratos bass boat, to the Rock Post Motel in Lincoln. As they traveled, they reminisced about past excursions and talked about various methods for catching largemouth bass.
After checking into the motel and readying their tackle and boat, they dined on a cheese-and-sausage pizza and watched the Weather Channel, gathering information about the barometric pressure, temperature, cloud cover, wind direction and the next day's forecast.
Their tournament day commenced at 4 a.m. After dressing, which included a heavy lathering of sunscreen, and watching the weather forecast, they loaded their equipment in the boat and drove to the lake.
Upon arriving at the boat ramp in Wilson State Park around 5:15 a.m. and registering with tournament officials, they launched their boat.
The tournament began at 6:05 a.m and the Saathoffs were the first team to leave the starting line. They traveled lickety-split across the lake's nearly placid surface, heading to a cove.
When they came to a stop at a small point inside the cove, Justin noted the air was filled with the pungent fragrance of sagebrush, which fills the hills surrounding the lake. Shawn immediately spied several schools of gizzard shad dimpling the cove's surface, and he told Justin it could be an auspicious sign.
It was good omen, all right, because on the fourth cast into some brush in two feet of water, a 1.88-pound largemouth inhaled Shawn's black-and-blue jig. Shortly afterward, Shawn caught and released two 14-inch bass on the same lure.
Justin and his father wielded the same lures -- a buzzbait, a spinnerbait, jig and frog and an eight-inch plastic worm with a quarter-ounce slip sinker.
Both used casting rods and Garcia 5500C3 reels spooled with 17-pound monofilament. Justin's rods, however, were shorter and less expensive than his father's, but he occasionally used one of his father's long St. Croix rods to pitch a jig adroitly into brush, aquatic weeds, stretches of rip rap and around boat docks.
For eight hours, Justin fished nearly in lockstep with his father, probing scores of shallow-water habitats with a jig, spinnberbait, buzzbait and plastic worm.
But Wilson's bass proved to be a formidable quarry to all of the contestants, and that 1.88-pound bass the Saathoffs' boated on the fourth cast was enough to win the tournament.
Despite the paltry fishing, Justin demonstrated at day's end that he possessed many of the virtues of a superb angler. Especially perseverance.