My annual Casting for a Cure Kids Fishing Rodeo returns Saturday and although I won’t catch a single fish it’s my favorite fishing day of the year.
That’s because I love seeing small fish spawn big smiles on the faces of small kids, many of whom are embarking on their very first fishing trip. This will be the 19th annual event. Since the conception, it has been a free event open to kids age 15 and younger. Nothing has changed in that regard.
Saturday morning the future fishermen will register from 8-9 a.m. beneath the shade trees of McKenzie City Park, located at 570 Como Road in McKenzie. A small pavilion will serve as our headquarters. The actual fishing takes place from 9-11 a.m.
Awaiting young boys and girls will be some hungry catfish stocked in the small lake there. Both the fish and the future fishermen are eager to tangle with each other.
Once the fishing draws to a close, several volunteers help me count and weigh fish. We’ll then award some special engraved plaques to the boy or girl catching the most and biggest fish in four separate age brackets — 5 and younger, 6-8, 9-11 and 12-15 years of age.
In addition to bragging rights, the youngsters will receive a nice bicycle to accompany their plaque to preserve the memory.
Thanks to donors who open their heart and pocketbook each year, we’ll have a lot of nice prizes for all the anglers whether they catch a stringerfull or not. We want every youngster to leave a winner and that’s a goal.
Each year after all the expenses of the event are met, I make a donation on behalf of the rodeo to the American Cancer Society. Every donor receives a tax deductible receipt from the Jackson office of the American Cancer Society.
So, it’s fair to say the young anglers are fighting fish and cancer at the same time. The event helps bring awareness to the fight against cancer while teaching kids to fish. That’s a win-win situation in my book.
Kids are asked to bring their own bait and tackle. Bait and concessions will be available on site and if a youngster shows up without a fishing pole or bait, I’ll make sure they get equipped fast and pointed in the right direction to test the water.
Lots of parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles or family friends will be on hand to encourage the kids and help them get started. You don’t have to be an accomplished angler to enjoy the rodeo or the sport itself. Some experienced kids show up with a special bait concoction that fools even the most finicky catfish.
However, worms have proven to be about the best bait through the years.
Seeing some of the kids catch their very first fish is quite a sight. Some take to it like a duck to water; others don’t know quite what to think and are somewhat confused by the whole ordeal at first.
It’s actually quite a spectacle when a bunch of kids scattered about the pond’s bank all start reeling in fish at the same time. Tangled lines are all part of it. Yelps and screams of enjoyment pierce the morning silence. Sometimes a few cries are heard too; cries of joy and discontent as well when a big one gets away. That’s all part of the fishing rodeo experience but the fish usually do their part to entertain the youngsters one tug at a time. Lines will break. Fish will slip away with bobbers in tow. Some rods and reels may even get jerked into the water from a sly fish that seized the opportunity when no one was watching.
Whatever they catch I hope the kids remember the rodeo and who took them fishing. I hope they’ll want to fish again and share some special times with friends and family beneath the shady oaks of creek banks, farm ponds or big lakes.
I still remember fond times from my first fishing days at nearby Carroll Lake.
I was hooked after catching my first fish there with a cane pole and a porcupine quill for a bobber.
Bobbers disappearing once fish bite never goes out of style. Kids grinning with delight after landing a fish doesn’t either.
It’s Free Fishing Day across Tennessee. So, bring them out Saturday and come see me. My whiskered friends swimming in the city park lake await the arrival of young anglers ready to play a game of tug of war.
STEVE McCADAMS is The Post-Intelligencer’s outdoors writer. His email address is email@example.com.