Reeling in on a decade

THE BLESER TEAM of Burlington, Wis., shows off the trophies and boat that it won for finishing first at last year’s Angler Young Angler Tournament. Pictured are, from left, organizer Dave Norton, Justin Keeker, organizer Krista Norton, Rich Bleser, Debbie Priepke and Bailey Bleser. Inset, from left, Keeker, Bailey Bleser and Rich Bleser hold up the five fish that they caught. submitted photos

by Ariana Hones

For Krista Norton, it is the faces of Green Lake area youth as they come in from their fishing excursion that makes the Regional Angler Young Angler (AYA) Fishing Tournament meaningful.

“One of my favorite memories is of a 4-year-old girl who signed up with her father and at the beginning of the day she was so terrified to go out on the water, but when she came in to weigh her day’s catch she had the biggest smile on her face; that time spent on the water with her dad is priceless,” Krista said.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of making those smiles happen as Krista and her husband, Dave, of Norton’s Dry Dock, celebrate a decade of partnering with Lund’s for the AYA fishing tournament.

Organized by Dave and Krista, the focus of this event is “to introduce youth into fishing, promote family values and relationships, create lasting memories, share and plant the seed of their love of Green Lake into the next generation and to promote the Green Lake community.”

This year, the tournament will be held Saturday, June 16.

Teams consist of one adult and up to two young anglers ranging from ages 4 to 17.

Each year, the Nortons have a goal of filling 50 team slots. For the past few years, the event has sold out within days of registration opening.

“From the 8:30 a.m. blast-off to the 2:30 p.m. weigh-in, young anglers spend time fishing with fathers, mothers, and mentors — exploring the waters in search of the right combination of five smallmouth bass needed to take home first place. To complete the day, AYA ends with an awards presentation, made possible by donations from area and national sponsors, “ said Krista.

This year, in honor of the 10th anniversary of the tournament, the Nortons will award up to 10 young anglers with $1,000 scholarships as part of their program, “Casting It Forward,” which began four years ago. These winners will be determined through a random drawing.

The team that wins the tournament with the heaviest catch will receive the “Lund Ultimate Catch” prize of up to $3,000, depending on the size of the team.

In addition to the chance to win scholarship prizes, each participant in the AYA tournament receives a rod/reel/line, a tackle box, lures, a trophy and memories of a day spent on the lake.

Since the tournament started in 2009, Krista reported that 411 adults have spent time on the lake with 725 young anglers. Young anglers have received 743 fishing poles, $19,000 worth of scholarship funds and 18,125 lures and hooks.

For Krista these numbers show one thing: a supportive community.

The AYA tournament serves as a chance for the community of Green Lake and the surrounding area to gather and support one of the best things about the lake: getting young people interacting with it.

The day is filled with parents, grandparents, friends and siblings working together to try their best at catching some fish.

Krista described the joy of seeing smiling faces of young kids at the end of the day when they come on stage to weigh-in and receive their prize as “pure excitement.”

This year, AYA takes place over Father’s Day weekend and Krista is excited to see lots of families present for the event.

With more than 100 sponsors, Krista continually expressed gratitude for the support of both the event’s sponsors and participants.

“It takes the whole community,” she noted.

Getting young people onto the lake and teaching them an appreciation for nature and fishing that will carry into the rest of their lives is something Krista hopes will continue to thrive.