June 24, 2008

Fishing Rodeo – Big Ones Don’t Get Away — Bartlett’s McKinley Kept Reeling ‘Em in for Win

By Larry Rea

Kaitlyn McKinley of Bartlett didn't catch a lot of big fish - one to be exact - but she caught enough little ones to claim the grand championship in the recent Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Mid- South Junior Fishing Rodeo at Johnson Road Lake in Germantown.

For her victory, Kaitlyn earned a bicycle, along with a three- day, two-night vacation to Reelfoot Lake, courtesy of resort owner Mike Hayes , a member of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission.

Rodeo divisional winners:

Boys 6-8 - Points , Holden McCraw of Memphis; Big fish, Jack Heffernan of Germantown

Girls 6-8 - Points and big fish , Caleigh Douglas of Atoka

Boys 9-12 - Points , Derek Fuller of Memphis; Big fish , Keegan Vespo of Southaven

Girls 9-12 - Points, Ashland Ray of Arlington; Big fish , Emily Jones of Southaven.

Kaitlyn, 11, a rising sixth-grader at Appling Middle School, is no stranger to the Mid-South Junior Fishing Rodeo, having first participated as a 6-year-old. Her older brother, Tyler, and sister, Ashlyn, served as rodeo volunteer workers, while her younger brother, Kyle, 6, was one of the rodeo's 250-plus participants.

Her lone catfish was caught on a nightcrawler on a small hook. After having another catfish get off her hook, and knowing each species of fish was worth so many points, Kaitlyn's dad, Todd, switched her bait to a waxworm ... and the bream started biting like crazy. She ended up with 40 bream and one catfish for a total of 85 points (2 points for bream and 5 for catfish).

"She would catch one (bream) and throw her fish on the bank and pick up another rod, cast it, and catch another one," said Kaitlyn's mom, Lara, who was in charge of the fish basket. "She never stopped the whole time. She wouldn't even stop to get a drink. I had to bring it to her."

Kaitlyn's grandmother, Linda McKinney, was there for support, too.

"We usually have a large crowd (at the rodeo)," Kaitlyn's mom said, noting that six of Kaitlyn's cousins have also participated in the rodeo over the years.

What made the day even more special for Kaitlyn was that she caught several fish on a rod given to her by her late grandfather, Bill McKinley, who until his death 1 1/2 years ago was a rodeo regular who loved to watch his grandchildren catch fish.

Ashland Ray, the age 9-12 girls winner, is a close friend of Kaitlyn.

"I think they secretly had their own competition going on - or at least their dads did - and they both ended up being winners," Kaitlyn's mom said. "One of the best things about this rodeo is that all of the kids go home feeling like winners. We look forward to it every year."

The rodeo was sponsored by Memphis, Light, Gas & Wate r and hosted by the Germantown Parks and Recreation Department with additional sponsorship from Sportsman's Warehouse (Hacks Cross and Winchester), the TWRA, Kroger and Wal-Mart .

Carl Graham of Collierville donated one of his Hammer Rods to the rodeo's collection of hand-drawn prizes. TV personality and Hall of Fame angler Bill Dance and Mid-South angler Ron Wong helped pass out prizes for the rodeo, which is an off-shoot of the old Mid-South Junior Fishing Rodeo sponsored for more than 50 years by The Commercial Appeal.

Dave Rizzuto , Region 1 fisheries biologist for the TWRA, said the park's lake was stocked with about 1,200 pounds of catchable- size catfish.

Thanks to Memphis Realtor Jackie Welch , one lucky participant walked away with a lifetime hunting and fishing license, which this year was worth $810. All participants were eligible to win this prize with the winner being drawn from the registration forms. In fact, the first name drawn - Braden Jacobs of Bartlett - already had a lifetime license, so another name was drawn.

For additional information, contact the TWRA Region 1 office in Jackson at (800) 372-3928 or the Germantown Parks and Recreation at 757-7375.

Larry Rea was the emcee for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Mid-South Junior Fishing Rodeo.

Originally published by Larry Rea Special to My Life .

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