Teaching Awareness with Tournaments By: Rosemary J. White

There are a lot of different tournaments in the fishing world, all benefitting just causes.  I have never really been one for this type of fishing until I recently took part in the Hooked up for Tatas Tournament, hosted by the Plantation on Crystal River.  This tournament focuses on raising funds and awareness for Breast Cancer.

My thought has always been that tournament style fishing takes the fun out of the day; in this case it was quite the opposite.  I secured a team (team Tee’s Bait) very much like myself.  A mom and her son fishing with another mom and her son.  The difference, my teammate’s little boy was only five years old!  “Back in the day,” I would have been extremely hard pressed to find another team like my own, I felt proud in the knowledge that more moms are teaching their boys how to fish and enjoy the outdoor lifestyle.

It was an early rise, at the ramp at 3:45 to ensure we arrived at the “spot” in conjunction with the right tide and sunrise.  I watched as my teammate Katie Jo directed our Captain out of the treacherous terrain that is Yankeetown.  We talked and got to know each other better, enlightening each other on where our love for fishing stemmed.

I chuckled as Katie Jo said repeatedly, through the dark ride, “no it’s not time to fish yet.”  We make it to our spot which, in and of itself, was a great feat.  If you know the area, you know that in the blink of an eye you can lose your lower unit.  Kudos to our Captain Keith who not only had to endure the terrain, rain and lightning, but two moms and two boys as well!

We patiently set up and wait for light, dodging bats that came to the lights of our headlamps.  After a while Daryn says “they” are over there around that bend, and the bite is on.  Having five people casting to one spot at the same time was a bit arduous to say the least.  As if that wasn’t chaotic enough, the fish were hitting hard and fast and the oyster bar–very unforgiving.

Katie Jo was the first to bring in a bruiser.  We fumbled around as she brought out the measuring device and, when I heard the groan, I knew it was too big.  Back into the water it went.  I was the second to bring in another over slot, cpr, and she too went back.  Imagine your tournament problem is the fish are too big!

I watched as the boys caught redfish one after another, paying close attention to how Fisher was able to expertly cast his own rod.  A boy after my own heart with his hands in the baitwell trying to find the biggest mud minnow (Tee’s Bait Market) he could.

We had a small window to fish as the tide would change quickly and, if we did not leave at the right time, we would be stuck.  We got the call for 15 more minutes.  Fisher casts out behind the boat in the few moments remaining and gets an instant hookup.  I watch as he fights the red better than most adults.  We net it into the boat and start squealing as the realization that this could be our slot winner materializes.  It measures a solid 27 inches and 7 pounds.

We enjoy the rest of the afternoon trying different spots, eating, laughing and relishing each other’s company considering the social distance rules.

Back at the weigh in, we were so proud to boast the five-year-old who caught the slot fish all by himself.  From hooking on his own bait, to casting, to landing, this young man had no short comings.  In my mind, the day spent with my son is always a winner in my book, but watching another mom and her boy was truly satisfying.

We came away with 8th place.  I came away with much more.  I realized that this tournament taught more than just an awareness for Breast Cancer.  Being in a competitive environment, acting as a team player, adhering to the rules, being respectful of each other and the environment, knowing the lay of the land and water, communication, trust, and problem solving were just a few of the qualities needed for success.  This truly was an event where all facets were utilized.

From this, I have gained a new light on tournament fishing for a cause and what it truly entails.  Not only are you helping those in need, but you are, in actuality, helping yourself, a win win on any day!