The weather was stunning as last Saturday morning’s darkness gave up its grasp to the rising eastern sun. But it was no match for the excitement felt from the 130 kids who would take part in this year’s 35th annual Jim “Moose” Carden Kids Fishing Clinic Graduation Tournament. This final event was the culmination of two weeks’ worth of classes, covering nearly every topic on fishing taught by our areas most prominent anglers.
On the first day of the program all children were presented with new rods and reels, their tools of the trade for the next two weeks. They also received tackle boxes and commemorative shirts. Students and their families then took in “general sessions” where they heard from state and regional outdoor experts including fisheries biologists and professional fishermen.
The eager participants then attend two classes covering nearly every topic associated with the great sport of fishing. Capping each evening the children would reconvene into the spacious Kokomo High School auditorium where hundreds of door prizes were presented to the excited students.
It is the graduation tourney where these children, between the ages of six to 15 have the opportunity to put their newfound knowledge and equipment to use.
When the action slowed some students found other ways to have fun. “The kids in my boat had beemoth races,” laughed boat captain, Don Hinkle. “When the bite slowed down or when we would move to another spot the kids would race their beemoth on the front deck,” he added in amusement.
As one of the first boats eased back to the bank after the three hour tourney with its precious cargo one young girl carried her rods and a precious smile. “Did you catch anything?” one of the volunteers asked. “I didn’t catch any fish,” she beamed, “but I did catch a really good time this morning!” Yes, this young lady grasped the true meaning of fishing
At the conclusion of the lengthy weigh-in, 332 fish totaling 147.39 pounds were brought to the scales, where each child was interviewed. “Where did you catch these,” one youngster was asked as his catch was placed onto the scales. “In the mouth,” was his response. Although fishing secrecy was not taught in the program this was something some students learned on their own. I guess some things will never change.
A buzz came over the crowd of hundreds when Nolan Ingram carried a fish to the scales that stretched nearly as long as he was tall. Ingram ended up winning the six to eight age group with two carp totaling 18.26 pounds. His largest topped out at just under 15 pounds, which was also the biggest fish of the tourney. He was guided to success by boat captain Gary Adams.
In the nine to 11 age bracket it was Jacey Cody claiming first place with her catch totaling 7.11 pounds. She was guided by boat captain Mat Temme. For the second year in a row, Wyatt Reynolds won first place in the 12-15 age division with several fish totaling 6.27 pounds. Jim Baker served as his boat captain.
For the most part, fishermen are known for their secretive nature when it comes to divulging tips techniques and favorite locations. But when it comes to children they are some of the most caring and compassionate. They understand the importance of helping pass on the tradition of angling to our youth and the benefit it provides.
The Kids Clinic is only made possible by the hundreds of sponsors, contributors, instructors, volunteers and especially boat captains who make the graduation tournament possible. To list each one would be futile. But they do not do this for recognition. They do it because of what’s in their heart. Deep down they know they are helping preserve our sport for the future generations. But what everyone else sees are individuals providing physical proof that there are still great people doing great things. And for the time being it was the perfect cure-all for what at times seems like a disgruntled world.