Monday, April 28, 2008

4.26.08 Children's Fishing Tournament Oxford, NC

"Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world." James 1:7

Doing something nice for a person who cannot repay you is goodwill in its purest form. Saturday I had the privilege of seeing this kind of love in action. My friend, Greg, and I volunteered at the Oxford Children’s Home Fishing Tournament at Buggs Island, a 50,000 acre reservoir located on the Carolina-Virginia border. Greg has been involved since the event’s inception in ’06 and invited me to tag along. With his glowing report I was eager to get involved.
In the predawn darkness Greg hooked up the Ranger to his Silverado as I stuffed rods, tackle, snacks, camera equipment and other miscellaneous gear into storage compartments. By 4:30am we were headed north to Virginia. With stops at Hardees in South Boston for biscuits and a great tackle shop in Clarksville called Bobcats we arrived at the ramp at 7 o’clock sharp. Blast off time was thirty minutes later. Seasoned anglers were paired up with a child and a chaperone and off they went for a day of fishing.
I stayed ashore for the morning session, taking pictures and helping the younger kids who fished from the bank. At noon the boaters returned with tall tales and taller appetites.
After lunch I jumped in Greg’s boat and we motored up the lake with our fishing buddy, James. James, a fourteen year old who has lived at the home for over seven years, was a fishing fanatic. Both he and Greg were bouncing around the boat in excitement. A quick peak in the livewell revealed why. Before lunch he had hooked a citation, fifteen and a half inch crappy. It was a monster, the largest I’d ever seen in person. James was thinking trophy, I was thinking House Autry and cheese grits. In addition to the crappy there were a couple largemouth swimming in the well. The task at hand was to add to the bag.

Our first spot was a steep, rock-strewn bank with several large blow downs. James was throwing a small, white spinner bait. Jack, his chaperon, had a popper, Greg and I were throwing larger, willow leaf spinner bait. I had a strike on my second cast and had a fish follow the bait to the boat on the third cast. Greg missed one and then I connected with one and handed my rod to James who reeled with all his might. Unfortunately the bass jumped right before it was netted and he got off. Moments later I got another strike and was able to put this one, a one and a half pounder, in the livewell. The wind picked up dramatically and the bite turned off.
Greg attempted t o put us on some other spots but nothing seemed to work. With about an hour left before weighin something went awry with the Ranger’s battery keeping the boat from starting. Fortunately the trolling motor had juice so our captain began slow progress toward the ramp. James, was a great sport and without complaining simply dropped a crank bait off the stern, trolling it in our wake. Wouldn’t you know it, right before we pulled ashore, a small striped bass hit the lure and James was able to pull him in.
One of the highlights of the day was the tournament weigh-in. The kids (and their fishing partners) were elated to show off their catch. There were bass, bream, catfish and crappies and among them were some very nice fish. Every group caught fish, some more than others. One team had almost twenty fish in their creel, another had twin catfish over three pounds and another had a largemouth weighing 5.4 lbs.
Following weigh-in was the trophy ceremony. Earlier in the day each child had been given a new rod and reel combo as well as tackle and other goodies. Now, every participant received a medal and prizes were award for largest fish in several categories, most fish, heaviest stringer, etc. By the time it was over, with sporting goods, trophies, toys and other treats, the picnic area looked like Christmas morning. And the looks of pure joy, gleeful giggles and ecstatic enthusiasm on the young peoples' faces was the true gift
Event organizers, Mike and Paris Routh, put together the Oxford Children’s Home Fishing Tournament with the purpose of creating wonderful, maybe even once-in-a-lifetime memories for the children. I’d say the Routh’s have accomplished their goal but it’s hard to say who is blessed more by this day, the volunteers or the participants. I plan on being there next year!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Outdoor Devotion: A Master at Work

Last night I had the privilege of seeing a true master at work. I attended the Sportsmen for Christ Campfire over in High Point. Campfire is a monthly meeting where outdoor fanatics get together for Bible study, a little good-natured ribbing, tale telling and of course, food consumption.
The featured guest was fly-tyer extraordinaire, Anthony Hipps of Lexington. After sharing a great devotion on temptation Anthony launched into a demonstration of how to tie his infamous foam-bodied bass popper. Starting with an empty hook, Hipps, added layer after layer of foam, thread, glue, hackle, paint, and other materials, meticulously molding and shaping until the fly resembled a perfect popper. Wrap thread, add material, turn the vise, glue, add material, wrap, spin, strip, wrap, adjust, paint, spin, adjust, motion after mesmerizing motion. Minutes later, as if conjured from some magical Orvis catalog, a perfect bass popper appeared. A true work of art, the handiwork of a master.
I have recently had the chance to watch another Master at work. My friend, Scott had been going through a really tough spot in his life. Very similar to the trials this life throws at us all: tough times at work, financial difficulties, relationship issues, marital discord, health problems, addictions of one sort or another, or maybe just disappointed with the daily grind. Scott's issues were compounded by the fact that he didn't have a relationship with the Lord.
After a particularly rough day, Scott decided he could take no more and threw up his hands in desperation. God was waiting. Through His providence one of Scott's buddies, a believer, was there at his time of need and he was led to the throne of the Creator. God reached down, grabbed Scott and embraced him as only our loving Heavenly Father is able.
As Scott has continued to surrender, God has been molding and shaping his life, his hopes, his dreams, his family into a true work of art. It has been a beautiful transformation to behold. A life full of pain to a man full of promise. The handiwork of The Master.
Is your life a mess? God, the Master, is waiting to transform you into His masterpiece. Why not talk to Him today?

He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion
until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Tangled Lines 4.02.08 Kids Fishing Trip

Growing up with a grandmother that loved to eat fish was a plus. Growing up with a grandmother that loved to catch fish was even better. I can close my eyes and picture my grandmother, affectionally known as "Granny," sitting in a lawn chair on the banks of the lake, under the shade of a battered straw hat, worn but adequate cane pole in hand , smiling as she pulled in bream, bass and catfish.
Granny was full of angling wisdom and would occasionally cast her pearls among swine and I, being her ever-present fishing buddy, was there to soak up the knowledge. One thing she always said was, “Fish bite better when it’s raining.” I’m not sure if her statement was based upon experience or if it was merely a ploy to keep her fishing buddy optimistic when foul weather loomed. I will say this, we caught some of our best stringers during spring showers .
Granny also said, "Never fish with dead bait." Being a consumate worm dipper, cricket sinker and minnow dunker, she was always sure to offer fresh bait on the hook. My mischievous side greatly relished her wrinkle-nosed response anytime I could convince a fish to partake of the bloated cadaver of a well overused nightcrawler.
Another of Granny’s precious nuggets was, “When the dogwoods bloom it’s time to go crappie fishing.” With this phrase in mind my friend, Greg and I mapped out a little fishing trip with my youngest boy, Zane, and his little buddy, Jacob. I would pick the boys up from school at lunch (yes, it is acceptable to get your son out of school to go fishing with their daddy) and Greg would hook up his boat and meet us at the Walmart parking lot.
We hit the water, ahead of schedule, and were blasting down the lake in Greg’s Ranger. Zane and Jacob lay on their bellies on the front deck and howled with delight as we sped along. (There are few things in this world better than the laughter of little boys.)
In minutes we were at our first spot, a beautiful rocky point off the main channel where someone had begun constructing a new pier. The sun warmed riprap and the protective structure of pier pilings made this an ideal location for prespawn crappies. We had Zebcos rigged with bobbers and mini jigs of varying colors at the ready and before the prop had stopped spinning, Greg had one on the hook. He handed the rod to Jacob who reeled in a nice, little fish, a nice start to the afternoon.
When the bite slowed we headed to another area and fished there a while.
The sun hid behind clouds and the wind picked up making our bobbers dance and jigs dance seductively beneath the waters surface but the fish could not be enticed. Apparently it was nap time for crappies. That meant snack time for crappy fisherman and we were amply stocked with all kinds of goodies (thanks to Zane's sweet mama): Lance peanut butter crackers, fruit rollups, Little Debbie Oatmeal cookies, and some leftover Easter candy to name a few. After snacks we decided to return to our original spot.
We caught a half dozen more, finishing the day exactly where we had started. Although we didn't catch enough to supply a fish fry it was a great day of fishing. I sure wish Granny could have been there!