AYA fishing tourney will cast lines amid Covid-19

JUSTIN CLARK, FRONT left, leads his team of Meredeth Clark, front right, and Garrett Clark (obstructed) to its fishing spot last year. Joe Schulz photo

by Joe Schulz

While some of Green Lake’s traditional summer events have been canceled, the annual Angler Young Angler Fishing Tournament is not one of them.

The 12th-annual tournament will give 100 children the opportunity to fish like the pros Saturday, June 20 on Big Green Lake. The event begins at Deacon Mills Park.

“It’s such a long tradition,” event director Chuck Hurley said. “The community and sponsors have been very supportive, and we felt like it was important to continue that tradition.”

Hurley noted the smallmouth bass tournament will be different than previous years in an effort to avoid spreading COVID-19 and ensure the safety of participants.

Traditionally, boats would be launched around 7:30 a.m. and the tournament would begin at 8:30.

But this year, boats will be launched from about 7:30 a.m. and 10 boats at a time will be allowed to begin participating in the event each half hour.

Hurley noted the “trickle start” will prevent a backup on stage when anglers come back to shore for the weigh-in and awards.

HOISTING THEIR TROPHIES alongside Angler Young Angler event director Chuck Hurley, left, are from left, Max Vande Slunt, Caden Da Maa and Adam Vande Slunt. submitted photo

“Instead of having 50 boats going across the stage at once, we’ll have 10 boats every half hour,” Hurley said.

In previous years, all of the teams would return, get their fish weighed and join the audience before winners were announced. Then winners would come on stage as they were announced, before participants were called up to collect their prizes.

This year, there will be a “hot seat” on stage where the angler with the heaviest haul will sit until someone returns to shore with a bigger catch.

Instead of bringing the individual boy and girl who caught the heaviest single-weight smallmouth bass on stage, there will be a board with contestants’ names on the stage after the weigh-in.

Additionally, the annual group photo featuring all of the participants will be canceled this year.

Prizes will include five $1,000 scholarships that will be randomly drawn, two $1,500 scholarships for the winning team, a Mercury Outboard and MotorGuide trolling motor. Each participant will receive a tackle bag, with a rod, reel and tackle.

For prizes, names will be drawn while teams are fishing and presented to the winning participant immediately after the weigh-in, while on stage.

While the event’s barbecue lunch in the park has been canceled, teams are allowed to stay and watch the remaining teams weigh-in.

Hurley noted all 50 team slots have been filled, with 10 teams on the waiting list. He started a waiting list because he thought some teams would drop out due to the pandemic, but so far no one has dropped out.

“I’m really pleased that all the teams that had originally signed up before COVID-19 events are all planning on participating,” he said.

Hurley added the event wouldn’t be possible without the support of the community.

“A lot of businesses have been closed down for eight to 10 weeks, but they continue to donate, sponsor and help us make sure this thing is a successful event,” he said.

Hurley noted this year’s event could be even more special for the participants as many professional fishing tournaments have been canceled, making this one of the few fishing tournaments that’s still happening.

“All of the elements that make it similar to a professional tournament are still in place,” Hurley said. “What we’ve had to change are the things that make it a family event.”

He hopes the tournament helps families build happy memories during uncertain times, as the event being outdoors further reduces the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

“Families can, hopefully, feel comfortable coming out and seeing each other — maybe for the first time in a few months,” Hurley said.