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What is our most valuable resource in the entire world today and key to America's future? Of course, it is our children. They will be our future leaders. If we, as adults, take the time to teach our children solid values and principles for living we can be assured that America will continue to prosper. Our children will grow up to be our future presidents and Bass Fishing World Champions. As NFL football coach Vince Lombardi so gracefully stated, "Leaders are made and not born; they are made the same way everything else is made in America, by hard work."

We have all heard it said, "Give someone a fish and feed them for a day, teach someone to fish and feed them for life." On Saturday June 10, 2006, we had a fantastic Family Fishing day where many families learned about the joys of fishing.

It was a beautiful, cool, and partly cloudy day with a chilly breeze. We had an incredible number of enthusiastic volunteers who were excited to have an opportunity to share their fishing skills with others. It was really a thrill to see Becky Gore, Jim Whittman, Bert Seymour, and so many of the Orange County High School BASS Team. They did a fantastic job of helping out during the fishing day.

If you look at the numbers, we had the privilege of teaching 169 children and 115 families how to fish, and enjoy fishing as a family activity. For many of these children and adults, it was their first exposure to fishing.

Preparations actually started months in advance for our fishing day. We wanted to put everything in place to make it a memorable day for everyone. Brian Lancaster of MARE Marine and Amy Ebersole of Dick's Sporting Goods stepped up early to be key sponsors of our event. The OBC Bassmasters and Franklin Park staff worked to advertise and get the word out. We had several newspapers announce our event, including the Washington Times. Special thanks go to Gene Mueller of the Washington Times for mentioning our Family Fishing day at the top of his weekly fishing report. If you don't already know, Gene is one of the greatest outdoor writers in the world.

Many of our key volunteers came out on Friday, June 9, to complete the elaborate setup we had planned. Michael Horner, the Franklin Park Manager, and his team set up two beautiful canopy tents, one at the lake weigh in site, and the other at the picnic area. Picnic tables and chairs were positioned to give our families plenty of places to sit and eat. John Britton and his wife Cheryl of the Marshall Bassmasters set up our BASS ESPN Casting Kids area. They also set up the bow of a Ranger boat for children to stand on and cast at targets. This was a crowd favorite and helped people to get the feel of what it would be like to fish out of a real boat.

Saturday morning we began the final preparations early. The Orange County High School BASS Team and adult boat captains wheeled in with some impressive looking bass boats. One BassCat Pantera, owned by boat captain Jim Whittman, had just been wrapped by Lustine Chevrolet. MARE Marine arrived with a beautiful black metal flake with red stripping Comanche Z20 equipped with Mercury's new 225 Pro XS Optimax motor. Michel Hall placed his new blue and silver Ranger Z21 and Mercury Optimax 250 XS next to Brian's Z20. Next came Blue Ridge Marine, all the way from Moneta Virginia, with some beautiful Skeeter boats and plenty of volunteers to help out.

The excitement grew as we set up all our banners. The multi-colored banners from Dick's Sporting Goods, MARE Marine, Ranger, and Berkeley made an impressive edition to the festive atmosphere that was filling Franklin Park.

Next we unloaded all the prizes from Dick's Sporting Goods and other volunteers who prefer not to be named. OBC Bassmasters with a great deal of help from Teresa Hall unloaded all the coolers with the food and drinks for the day. Our photographer for the day Michael Hall II helped us to set up the registration table. Amanda Parris did a superb job of greeting and registering all of our families, which included getting their names and addresses.

Our Tournament Directors, Bobby Williams and Rick Whitaker from OBC Bassmasters, set up aerated tubs filled with cool water under the weigh in tent and even had a set of electronic scales for weighing the fish. They also provided 75 dozen night crawlers. We had approximately 100 rod and reel combinations at the weigh in area to be used as loaners for those families that did not bring their own fishing equipment.

Once everything was set up, we enjoyed some Starbucks coffee and Krispy Crème donuts. There were some last minute discussions on what roles all the volunteers would perform. It was really impressive to talk with the Orange County High School BASS Team. They were all well mannered and willing to share their knowledge about fishing. Watch out FLW Outdoors and BASS ESPN Bass Pros! These Orange County Bass Masters are for real!

All of sudden an avalanche of very lively people started to arrive. Each family registered, and then was sent to see Brian Lancaster (representing Ranger from MARE Marine) to be given a beautiful yellow and black Ranger fishing cap. After picking up their hats, families were sent down to check in with the tournament directors for instructions and pick up their bait and tackle.

Before you could snap your fingers, the Franklin Park Lake was surrounded by families fishing. It was really neat to see all the bright yellow Ranger caps gleaming in the sunshine around the Lake. Our morning fishing tournament that was scheduled for 10:00 A.M. - 12:00 P.M. was off and running. It was incredible to walk around the lake and see how much fun everyone was having. There were big beaming smiles everywhere that we caught on camera. Bluegill, Catfish, 2-3 pound Bass began showing up at the weigh in station. You could hear the yells, "I've got one! I need a bigger hook! My line is tangled! Can you help me tie a knot?"

Many of the children seemed to have a big fascination with their night crawlers and enjoyed playing with them. We had a few children that did not want to touch their fish, others enjoyed learning about how to handle a fish and releasing it to be caught another day.

There were plenty of Bass, Bluegill, and Catfish caught and released during the two hour tournament. Bobby Williams and Rick Whitaker did an excellent job of working with all the families in weighing and releasing all the fish alive.

The two hours passed way too quickly for the tournament. Thank goodness, we captured some incredible pictures that you can go out and see at Michael Hall's WEB site, http://www.mikehallfishing.com. The winners of the largest and smallest fish categories were:

1. Big Bass Justin Duff 3.01 lbs

2. Smallest Bass Chet Hartly 0.04 lbs

3. Big Catfish Maddy Dobscha 5.26 lbs

4. Smallest Catfish Jarid Williams 2.95 lbs

5. Big Bluegill Gregory Poland 0.59 lbs

6. Smallest Bluegill Ben Ilffie 0.09 lbs

By the time our fishing tournament was over, everyone had worked up a big appetite. You could smell the hotdogs and hamburgers being cooked on the gas grill. Many families took time out to relax and enjoy the food that included baked beans, potato chips and soft drinks. Special thanks to Master Chef Pastor Lewis Holmes and his team of Oakton Baptist Church volunteers for cooking and serving our food.

After our picnic, many families chose to return to the Franklin Lake for some more fishing. The thrill of catching a first fish had hooked several children and families that had never been fishing before. Our Ranger boat casting platform also attracted quite a bit of attention. The children were excited to cast at targets from the bow of a Ranger boat. They won various prizes by hitting the casting targets.

At 1:00 P.M., John Britton and his wife Cheryl began our BASS ESPN Casting Kids contest. They were helped by expert fisherman and members of the Orange County High School Bass team. This event is where children ages 7-10 and 11-14 compete by flipping, pitching, and casting at a target. The winners, Tyler Schlemmer for the 11-14 age group, and Ryan Moline for the 7-10 age group, will go on to the Virginia State competition. They will have the opportunity to go all the way to the National Finals if they can win the Virginia State competition. We had a large number of children participate. Every child is a winner here, and the most important aspect of the competition is that the children learn the basic fishing skills of flipping, pitching, and casting.
At around 3:00 P.M., our BASS ESPN Casting Kids competition was over and it was time to give out all our prizes. Bobby Williams was our Master of Ceremonies, and first presented the trophies for the biggest and smallest Catfish, Bluegill, and Largemouth bass. The families were then thrilled as we had the children draw for prizes that included around 50 rod and reel combinations, tackle boxes, toys, and other prizes.
After all the prizes were handed out, we had a special award for the Orange County High School Bass Team. A beautiful GRANDT All American Pro Series 6'6 medium heavy spinning rod was presented to Becky Gore. These are incredible rods and this is the exact model that Michael Hall used in winning the 2005 Potomac EVERSTART tournament in August 2005. Special thanks to Jim Grandt for donating this Professional Bass Fishing rod to be given to the Orange County High School BASS Team.

We completed our Family Fishing day by having a picture shoot in front of the large Dick's Sporting Goods banner with many of the children holding their new fishing rods and reels and tackle boxes. Cameras began to flash capturing the big smiles of the children and on the faces of our volunteers. It had been a day filled with memories that will last a lifetime.

A few days after our Family Fishing day was over, we started to receive emails and pictures from families that had attended. The message was clear; it had been a special day for families, where they had learned how to fish for a lifetime.