By Janet Jacobs
Corsicana Daily Sun
Ben Caton has been participating in the Hooked on Fishing event since he was a little kid. Now, as a young man, he still comes home each year from College Station to volunteer on the event.
The event is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 28 at the I.O.O.F. Park. Registration begins at 7 a.m.
“My dad liked fishing and he wanted me to get into it, and figured that was a good way to get into it,” Caton said. His younger sisters also participate in it. Camryn, 11, won a prize for top perch last year.
“My sister will do it every year until she can’t, and then she’ll probably work it,” Ben said.
His mother, Catherine Caton, said she and her husband learned about KidFish from an article in the newspaper. They attend a lot of parks programs, and have become friends with Parks Director Sharla Allen.
“I thought it would be fun to take the kids to,” she said. “I don’t believe we’ve missed a year.”
Ben won a few things over the years, but never a boat, one of the big prizes.
“But I always won something, and that’s the main thing,” he said. “If you catch something, you’re going to win something. No one goes home empty-handed. If all else fails, at least you get a cool T-shirt out of it.”
For Ben, it has become an annual event worth driving back home for because of what it does for the children.
“It’s worth the time to do,” he said.
Dorothy Smith, who works with organizer Sam McCollum, has been a volunteer for years at Hooked on Fishing. Now, at 76, she still volunteers her time at the event.
“I love what they’re doing for those kids,” she said. “It’s wonderful.”
“I enjoy watching the children,” Smith said. “They have a ball. Those little eyes light up. I think it’s a real neat idea to give the kids a chance to fish like that. I truly enjoy it.”
McCollum has been organizing the program for the entire 14 years, working year-round to collect prizes and get sponsorships. This year, he’s doing something a little different with the biggest prizes. Instead of boats, they’re going to give away camping packages that include a tent, sleeping bag, cooking equipment, fishing gear, and everything necessary for an expedition.
“It’s tents, chairs, fishing supplies, lights, bug spray, sun screen, all the little goody things that go with camping,” McCollum said. “I’m an outdoorsman, so I know what they need. They’ll be ready to go into the woods or the lake or wherever they want to do. It will definitely be something fun for them to win.”
Even kids who can’t get out to the woods will be able to camp out in the backyard with this package, McCollum said.
As in past years, there will be four categories: Turtles, perch, bass and catfish, with first, second and third places awarded in the fish categories. The overall winner will get a camping package, and a second camping package will be awarded through a drawing, so any kid could take it home, even if they don’t land any sized fish.
Drawings take place throughout the day for smaller prizes, and of course, the kids get a free hot dog luncheon and bait.
Children are encouraged to bring their own rod and reel or fishing poles, though.
“We furnish rods and reels, but we’re limited on those,” he said. “We run out every year, which is good because we’re getting a lot of kids who’ve never been fishing, but we run out every year.”
Hooked on Fishing is free to any child, ages 14 and younger. Families are encouraged to come fish with the kids, but only kids can win a prize. They must be present to win, however. The event is sponsored by Bank of America, Butler’s First Place Tint, The J. Tom Eady Charitable Trust, the Rena Fleming Foundation, Kiwanis Club of Corsicana, Oil City Iron Works, the Parks and Recreation Department, and with smaller donations and prizes contributed by three dozen businesses and individuals, such as Blakes Boats, Brinson Ford, Custom T’s, Corsicana Bedding, Third Avenue Meat Market, Watkins Construction, Chuck’s Paint and Body, Collin Street Bakery, and many others.
“I want the kids to have fun,” McCollum said. “I want them to catch fish.”
Janet Jacobs may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Want to “sound off” to this article? E-mail: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com