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!

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