Jim Klick loaded my eight-year-old daughter, Tashina, and me into his bass boat and headed to a wind-blown shore on Prospect Bay of Rainy Lake for three hours of fishing.
It was an afternoon to remember in July of 1997.
Tashina, with Jim’s help, caught several smallmouth bass in the three-pound class. She went home a happy girl with a tackle box crammed full of memories and a beginning enthusiasm for fishing.
That afternoon of fishing with a generous pro angler in the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship hatched an idea that has become the only Kid-Pro fishing tournament in Canada.
In four years, more than 80 young anglers will have fished in an annual tournament alongside a dedicated core of pro bass fishermen. This group is committed to sharing their fishing knowledge and experience with kids.
Today, the Kid-Pro tournament, hosted by the FFCBC, has moved from a one-fish, open species event to a four-hour one with 13 teams, to a three-bass, catch-and-release, six-hour showdown drawing 35 teams last year.
Co-ordinated annually by Bill Morgenstern and Rick Socholotuk of Fort Frances, the Kid-Pro offers each youthful participant (aged 10-14) a half-day fishing seminar packed with water safety and fishing tips before their day on the lake.
Kids learn the dos and don’ts with equipment required for safe boating. Fish ID and general habitat information is discussed. Fishing techniques and tackle demonstrations emphasize ways to fish for and catch that prized smallmouth.
Catch-and-release is the name of the game. Young anglers learn the “whys and hows” for a successful release.
Since all bass in the Kid-Pro 2000 event were slated for immediate release on the lake, all kids were shown how to measure and photograph their catch, determine weight based on a length/weight chart, and record necessary information for weigh-in.
To ensure each young angler gets a good start in the Kid-Pro, local sponsor Canadian Tire provides each participant with a tackle box to hold the gear needed for their day of glory.
Every kid also is encouraged to enter the National Canadian Youth Fishing Derby through a kit provided by Mercury Marine Canada.
Teams in the Kid-Pro are made up of a kid selected in a sign-up draw and a pro angler team fishing the FFCBC who has volunteered their time to take a kid fishing prior to the main event.
Kids come from Fort Frances, the Rainy River District, Dryden, Winnipeg, and Toronto for a chance to fish with a pro. Once fished, these kids are ineligible to fish in this tournament in future years but the pros keep coming back.
On the lake, the kids and pros fish side-by-side, sharing stories, tackle, and lunch. Teamwork is important. Values are taught. Lessons are learned. Fish are caught. And laughs are enjoyed.
As one young angler summed it up, “It was awesome. I caught a 13-pound northern!”
Not to be outdone by the main event, Kid-Pro teams ride through the big tent, tell their stories to a packed audience, accept the Kid-Pro team trophy, and claim their prizes from an assortment, including a half-day guided fishing trip (first place) to rod and reel combos, tackle boxes, line, and tackle all donated by community supporters.
Organizers of the event believe that every kid is a winner. Each young angler in the Kid-Pro 2000 went home with a prize for their effort and memories of this once-in-a-lifetime event.
And the pros go back to the business at hand knowing they have shared something special.
The future of fishing, and catch-and-release, is assured of success when these young anglers team up with knowledgeable pros and local sponsors who support the Kid-Pro tournament of the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship.
Editor’s note: Registration for the draw for the 2001 Kid-Pro tournament is slated June 27-28 at the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce office on Scott Street (across from Safeway).