NORTH RIDGEVILLE, OH – The past few weeks, I had gotten the kids pretty excited over the upcoming fishing derby that takes place as part of the North Ridgeville Corn Festival. The derby is ran by some of the nicest folks you could ever meet, the North Ridgeville Fishing Club. While I had a great time last year (you can read that post here), I was especially excited for this year’s derby as my daughter was now old enough to participate. With both kids eager to attend, and the idea of sharp hooks and only daddy supervision, I knew my wife would be joining us. While my wife is deserving of a nice Saturday morning to sleep in, I was thrilled to have the entire family with me. The fishing may not be of much interest to her, but the cabbage and noodles, chicken paprikash, or deep fried pickles that awaited us when the fishing concluded, surely did!
Expectations always remain low for me at any formal fishing event. My luck just usually is worse, if there is any type of extra pressure to have success. Today would be especially bad due to having everyone with me and the fact that I had hyped it up so much with the kids. In the end, I know time together is priceless, but a 5 and 3 year old having fun and being content requires catching fish. Today that meant having all the gear needed (and more), and prayers!
Despite my best efforts, the first few hours were typical… doing everything to keep just enough bites going so the kids didn’t fade on me. I eventually determined I would try one rod, still-fishing off the bottom, while they continued their bobber fishing. This new strategy didn’t provide any instant result, but after about 30 minutes I saw the rod getting some action. A slight bend, and I handed the rod to Bryce. I was shocked to see the rod bend in half and Bryce suddenly yelled, “It’s too heavy!”. Initially, I thought a fish had simply thrown the hook into a submerged log or got him wrapped around some rocks or debris. But after he asked me to help hold the rod with him, I could feel the heavy fish fighting. I encouraged him he could do it, and he reluctantly took full control as I removed my hand from steadying the rod. When I saw the fish jump, I knew it was a trophy, and desperately hoped he would succeed. Not just for him, but for all of us – we really wanted to see this fish! I took up the net and it was funny how he yelled which way the fish was heading (even though I could see). I can’t begin to describe the angst I had while he was fighting the fish and then the overwhelming joy when he successfully brought the fish in.
My already rather fun day, suddenly turned epic. Now that it was landed, I became more aware of my surroundings and could hear everyone fishing around us shouting “what did he get?!”. I responded, “A huge Largemouth!”. I was so excited for him and it was truly a surreal moment. I came to my senses fast enough to know I wanted some quick pictures, before sprinting with it in a bucket, to the judges station. I normally let Bryce carry the fish – or fish in the bucket, but I left him trailing behind me. I wanted this fish to live. Bryce did catch up by the time the fish was measured (at 20 and a half inches), and the fishing club did a couple more photos. As much as I wanted to admire the catch – and let everyone else and Bryce admire it too, it needed to get back in the lake. A few back and forth motions in the water, and the fish strongly swam away into the depths. The exact ending I wanted for a fish giving my family a lifetime memory. I pray it does this again for someone else, with the same outcome.
After the catch, there was about 45 minutes until the event ended. We were treated to seeing the largest fish of the derby getting caught, a 26″ Channel Catfish. Thankfully, the polite young man who caught it was in an older age group, or Bryce would have been devastated that his catch wasn’t the largest. There were a lot of ‘parenting moments’ as he dealt with his own sense of accomplishment, while having to be excited and happy for someone else. I can’t recall ever noticing his competitiveness as much as today, when he kept asking whose catch was better.
Bryce’s catch earned him a new fishing rod combo and loaded tackle tray. While everyone was enjoying the drinks and hotdogs provided by the fishing club, I sought out a boy that didn’t win anything. Unbeknownst to Bryce, I gave away his combo. He was given one last year, and at 5, didn’t have the maturity to understand the right thing to do. I was happy to make this kid’s day, as he didn’t leave empty handed. It got even better, when the adults with him said he didn’t have his own fishing rod until now. This banner day, couldn’t have ended better.