Clarence Mitchell instructs his granddaughter Kayla Mitchell, 10, on how to dislodge her line from the trees on the bank of the river during the fourth annual Down East Youth and Adult Bass Fishing Tournament on  June 4, 2011, at the Tar River Reservoir.

Telegram file photo / Emma Tannenbaum

Clarence Mitchell instructs his granddaughter Kayla Mitchell, 10, on how to dislodge her line from the trees on the bank of the river during the fourth annual Down East Youth and Adult Bass Fishing Tournament on June 4, 2011, at the Tar River Reservoir.

Youth fishing tourney returns

By Darla Slipke

4 Comments | Leave a Comment

Fourteen-year-old Jaquez Murphy has learned about much more than fishing by participating in the annual Down East Inner City Youth and Adult Bass Fishing Tournament.

Each year, local students are paired with adult boaters in the community. They compete as a team for prizes and awards.

Murphy’s fishing partner, Geno McCree, taught him how to reel in a big fish without struggling and how to throw a cast out longer. But he also gave Murphy advice about school and encouraged him to keep his grades up.

Having that support from McCree and other tournament volunteers helped motivate him, Murphy said.

“They don’t overwhelm you, but they won’t give up on you,” he said.

The fifth annual tournament is scheduled from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 9 at the Rocky Mount Reservoir.

Organizers are looking for people with boats to participate in the event. The entry fee for boaters is $80, which includes $20 that goes toward big fish prize money.

The event also helps support the Williford Family Resource Center of Rocky Mount, which provides support for families in the Williford community.

Youth who participate in the tournament are students or former students from Williford Elementary School.

To participate, they must have good grades, attendance and behavior, said Toni Fletcher, the school’s social worker. Some students have participated in the tournament every year, Fletcher said.

Some, like Murphy, have returned even after they moved on to other schools. Murphy is now an eighth-grader at Faith Christian School.

He said in a few years he will be too old to participate in the tournament, but he plans to stay involved.

“I just want to give back to someone else,” Murphy said.

Students look forward to the event every year, Fletcher said. They often stop her in the hallway to ask about the tournament.

“It’s had a huge impact,” she said.

Organizers have a pre-tournament dinner the night before the event where students have an opportunity to meet the boaters. Chris Payne, commander of the Rocky Mount Power Squadron, plans to talk to the kids about boating safety.

Bass Pro Shop has provided rods and reels for students in the past, said Rodney Birth, a co-founder of the event. Other sponsors have provided meals, water bottles and T-shirts in the past, Birth said.

students also receive a backpack full of school supplies for the next school year.

Organizers try to match returning students with the same boater they were paired with the year before. That allows them to build more of a relationship.

Murphy and McCree have been partners since the first tournament. Every year, they pick up where they left off.

“It’s like a reunion,” Murphy said.

McCree is the other tournament co-founder. He and Birth wanted to give inner-city youth an opportunity to experience the sport of fishing while developing life skills and meeting positive role models.

“It’s more than just fishing,” McCree said. “It’s about bringing the kids together and giving them something to strive for.”

Charlie Choate serves as an adult mentor in the tournament. He has been involved with the event since its first year.

“It’s been a blessing to me,” Choate said.

He keeps in touch with his young fishing partner during the off-season. Choate said he will never forget the first time the boy stepped on his boat. They exchanged high-fives after the boy caught a fish.
“I don’t know who was more excited,” Choate said.

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