(Editor’s Note: The writer's opinions and observations expressed here are his own, and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views, policies or positions of FLW.)
Fishing is a sport that is absolutely filled with many traditions. However, no one can argue that the greatest tradition in fishing is the constant quest to expose others to our great sport.
Be it children or adults, we all want others to be able to experience the pure joy that we feel when hooked up and battling a fish that we have worked so hard for.
As many people know, I have been representing Special Olympics of Arkansas (SOAR) all over the country this year while on the Walmart FLW Tour. On Tour, I have tried to do my part to help raise awareness for our athletes and furthermore help them reach their goals, as so many people helped me reach mine.
Having the opportunity to represent SOAR this year was an absolutely amazing experience, but the folks at SOAR and I wanted to do a little more for the athletes directly. These athletes work so hard throughout the year to stay at a competitive level, and we thought it would be great to give them a taste of a little different type of competition: a fishing tournament.
Not only did we want the excitement of competition to be present, but also the full experience of a championship. Thus, there was no larger or better event to partner with than the Forrest Wood Cup, the world championship of bass fishing.
At first, this was all just a pie in the sky idea, or so we thought. We were absolutely amazed by the support of FLW and the FLW Foundation when we came to them with the idea of having a fishing derby for the athletes of SOAR. They went so far out of their way to help us gain the supplies we needed from companies like DMF Bait and Steinhauser rods (makers of Kid Casters and The No Tangler) and help us make sure everything was perfect for our athletes.
The FLW Foundation Special Olympics Fishing Derby was an absolute success, with 45 of our athletes competing for the chance to be crowned champion on the largest stage in fishing. An urban fishing area, which had been stocked by the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, was lined with athletes that couldn’t stop smiling as they continuously reeled in their catch. Jacob Bagget, age 30, of Bryant, Ark. was crowned the champion.
It is so amazing to watch the fishing community come together for causes like this. So many volunteers from the community come out to help, along with fellow FLW angler Nicole Jacobs and G2 Gemini rep Mike Schnupp. Three generations of my family were present to help with this event and the expo, and it produced great memories for all of us.
My family, as well as the SOAR family, simply cannot thank the people of FLW, Steinhauser, DMF Bait and the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission enough. Without your support, none of this would have been possible. We have many exciting events for 2016, and I thank all of our supporters for partnering us this year and in the future.