Kids catch more than fish at Kokomo tourney

Kids line up at weigh-in holding their bags of fish at this year's 33rd annual Jim "Moose" Carden Kids Fishing Clinic graduation tournament. Photo by author

It was, without question, the best of all worlds – kids, families, fishing and food. The perfect cure all for what sometimes seems like a disgruntled world. Physical proof the majority of people are still good.

Before the first wisps of daylight a small army gathered at the Kokomo Reservoir to prepare for this year’s 33rd annual Jim “Moose” Carden Kids Fishing Clinic graduation tournament. The event was the culmination of two weeks of classes where 130 children put their newfound knowledge to the piscatorial test.

None of it would have been possible without the City of Kokomo, Ivy Tech, Coca-Cola, SRS Inc., First Farmers Bank, Kokomo Tribune, UAW Local 685, Booster Club of Kokomo, Adams Auto Group, IMI, Booster Club of Kokomo and Zebco.

The smell of outboard motors mixed with the freshness of dawn as the 65 boat captains eased their watercrafts on the banks of the 464-acre Kokomo Reservoir. Their intentions were to create lifetime memories for their precious cargo and of course catch a few fish. It is the boat captains who donate their valuable time and equipment who sit at the spiritual center of the long time youth program.

The kids were armed with their own rods and reels and an assortment of bait provided by brothers Don and Ron Swope. If the fish weren’t nervous they should have been.
Anticipation was at a fevered pitch as the caring boat captains eased away from the banks with their graduates. But one thing was missing. There were no tantrum type people and rude bleacher loudmouths who get caught up in the famous word “win”, which at times has severed friendships and created wars. This contest is different. Absent were the rants and complaints that too often accompany youthful mishaps. “What a blessing this is for everyone involved,” said Jenny Martindale, who stopped by to view the graduation event for her first time.

At the end of the three hour tournament kids in brightly colored shirts, provided by First Farmers Bank, swarmed the weigh in holding their bags of freshly caught fish. Jeff and Terri Rude of the Hoosier Open Tournament series did a magnificent job of tallying everyone’s catch while making the young graduates feel important. As it should be since children are our nation’s number one natural resource.

With weigh-in complete it was learned the kids brought in a total of 179 assorted fish weighing 154 pounds. Dillon Gorham won the 6-8 age group with two fish weighing 8.17 pounds. He was guided to success by longtime boat captain Jim Baker. “Where did you catch them,” someone asked. “In the mouth,” was his quick witted answer. A response you would expect from a secretive fisherman. Who says the kids didn’t learn well?

Boat captain Jeff Fager (L.) and his first mate Ty Kendall flank overall winner Macy Hastings and her prize winning catch. Photo by author.
Boat captain Jeff Fager (L.) and his first mate Ty Kendall flank overall winner Macy Hastings and her prize winning catch.
Photo by author.

In the 9-10 age bracket Kelsie Avery took top honors with two fish topping out at 5.46 pounds. She shared a boat with Craig Carter. Amid gasps and awe Macy Hastings wowed the large crowd as she struggled to carry her days catch to the weigh-in site. She brought in seven fish straining the scales at just over 27 pounds in the 11-15 age group. She was led to success by boat captain Jeff Fager.

But it wasn’t over yet. The large crowd was then treated to Frank Simpson’s barbecue, hamburgers and hotdogs and other picnic pleasantries. Coca Cola provided the world’s best soft drink, which they have done since the Kids Clinic’s beginning. Kokomo’s noontime Kiwanis manned the two food tables insuring everyone was well fed in short order.

Kids in our area are fortunate to live in such a caring community with so many people not only willing, but eager to step up to the plate. I’m not talking about a buffet line with 24 feet of food or standing in a batter’s box waiting for the next pitch. What I am talking about are those people who seem to put everything aside to help others.

In the end another batch of children were added to the list of Kids Clinic graduates bringing the total to nearly 4,000 new anglers. The entire program is only made possible by many sponsors, contributors, volunteers and boat captains who believe in passing on the great tradition of fishing. With more than 180 volunteers, it’s nearly impossible to mention everyone. But even more importantly they provide physical proof the majority of people still believe in doing great things without anything in return

John Martino
Martino is a well-known outdoor writer throughout Indiana and has served as longtime outdoor columnist for the Kokomo Tribune newspaper. Martino has won numerous awards for both his writing and his service to youth, conservation and the community. He recently retired as Superintendent of Parks and Recreation for the City of Kokomo and now works as Ivy Tech Executive Director for Facilities for the Kokomo region.

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