The “lure” of fishing to help others

The Clarion-Ledger
By Donna Echols
May 2015

Most all of us have fond memories of fishing with your buddies, a relative, or by yourself just to escape to a peaceful place. Whether that was on a creek bank with a cane pole, a pond out in the middle of a pasture, a coveted fishing hole, a river like the Little Red in Arkansas or somewhere out in the vast Gulf of Mexico, the simple act of fishing is good medicine for the soul.

To hear someone say “they’re goin’ fishing” makes you immediately think about those fun memories, lazy-sunny-got-no-worries-relaxing kind of days, and lots of fish to grill for dinner if you’re lucky. Fishing is also a sport that brings millions to Mississippi’s coffers. According to a 2014 article by Dr. Daryl Jones, coordinator of the Natural Resource Enterprises Program and an associate wildlife extension professor at Mississippi State University, about 508,000 residents and nonresidents spent $264 million on fishing in the state, producing an estimated $745 million in economic impact. Y’all, that’s a lot of folks fishing!

When you combine the love people in our state have for the beautiful Mississippi outdoors and fishing, you get a group of folks dedicated to helping kids who have a life-threatening illness. What you get is a very special effort in the Catch-A-Dream Foundation. Started in 2000, the Catch-A-Dream Foundation is making hopes come alive for some very ill children. One mother said of the experience for her son, “God is awesome, and has given us a glimpse of just how precious life is. We appreciate every day. No matter how many years he has, they’re going to be good years, and people like this (Catch-A-Dream) help make that special.”

This weekend they had the Catch-A-Dream Bass Classic at the Ross Barnett Reservoir which is held the first Sunday every May. This charitable bass fishing tournament was sponsored by Bass Pro Shops. It was a perfect day for being out on the water. It’s a catch-and-release tournament. Those fishing could bring in their top five bass for competition. There was a slight wind blowing, sun shining, the smell of grilled hamburgers and fries stirring your appetite, and by the time folks were coming in to register their fish, it was standing room only near the scales.

Bryan Chisholm, project manager and trip planner for Catch-A-Dream said, “This is our sixth year for this tournament, and we had a record-setting number of registered fishermen. With 220 boats and 440 fishermen, we believe this is the largest tournament on the reservoir, and it’s certainly our largest.” “We have granted about 505 wishes to kids who have been doctor certified with a life-threatening or terminal illness. On average, we raise close to $60,000 at tournaments like this, and Catch-A-Dream also has a sporting clay event to help raise funds for these kids at different times throughout the year,” Chisholm added.

When asked what Catch-A-Dream trips are like for Chisolm, he said, “Every trip that I go on for these kids is my favorite. I feel like I get as much as these kids do from the trips. These families minister to us almost as much as we do with them. The outlook and wisdom of these kids, at such a young age, is incredible!” Chisholm goes on about half a dozen of these trips a year.

Charity fishing tournaments like this require months, days, and lots of extra hours to plan and put together. Catch-A-Dream, like most other non-profits, relies heavily on volunteers like George Taylor of Madison. “This bass tournament gives me an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and share this experience with others,” he said. Taylor was a host and emcee for the tournament as fishermen were bringing fish in to weigh. “The money raised today allows these kids to have a very unique experience on an outdoor trip. For just a moment, all their cares are gone, and they’re focused on fishing, hunting, or some other outdoor experience,” Taylor added.

Kevin Daigle and Austin Banks have been fishing in the Catch-A-Dream Bass Tournament since it started. “Giving back to people who need help is why Austin and I fish this tournament,” said Daigle. “This is such a great cause.” Daigle had his children, John Michael and Ella Rose, at the weigh station showing them the catches the Daigle/Banks team made for the day. To say his children were excited to see the large bass swimming in the bags would be an understatement.

Catch-A-Dream board member Harry Dendy said, “The foundation does a lot of good for these kids by taking them on hunting or fishing trips. I’m an outdoor person and this is the most awesome experience ever.” “When we first started, I’m not sure we all knew Catch-A-Dream would have this much impact on the lives of these kids and their families.” “The outreach to these kids has surpassed my greatest expectations,” Dendy said. “It’s turned into an amazing, positive effort in granting the hopes to these kids to go hunt or fish at various locations.”

One of the spectators in the crowd was overheard saying that folks out here participating and watching this tournament are just good Mississippi folks. That comment really sums up how Mississippians are when it comes to helping others. The Catch-A-Dream Bass Classic is another shining example of folks in our state coming together for such a notable cause. The “lure” of fishing set the stage to help children under the age of 18 who are suffering from a life-threatening illness. Remember, every first Sunday in May, you’ll find the Catch-A-Dream Bass Classic at the reservoir.

If you don’t fish or missed the tournament this year, you can visit Catch-A-Dream on their website at You can donate online or write them at Catch-A-Dream Foundation; 2485 Ennis Rd.; Starkville, MS 39759. Their phone number is (662) 324-5700, and this a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Upcoming charity events are also listed on their website if you’d like to participate. Remember, fishing’s just real good medicine for the soul. Mississippians… we’re good people and always ready to help others in need!

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