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Tackle Box Fishing Tournament

July 19, 2012

By: Anna Jones

Between the whoops and hollers rolling in from all corners of the lake and the sounds of fryers simmering and knives buzzing in the background, it was clear…the fish were flying and frying at the Pujols Family Foundation’s second annual fishing tournament.

The morning of July 19 on the Hammonds’ family farm in Williamsburg could not have been more perfect for the more than two dozen fishermen and fisher gals and their family member. Instead of the foreboding forecast of 105 degree temperatures, a morning rain had rolled through and left behind just enough clouds to keep the morning cool.

And with top notch equipment from Cabela’s, a sea of wonderfully helpful volunteers and plenty of water and shaded areas, it was a busy morning of casting and reeling in more than 350 fish.

“Hearing the excitement of the kids as they caught the fish and hearing that hooting and hollering, I felt the day was going well,” said Jim Hammond, who has spearheaded the event each of the last two years with his wife, Shelley. “But my very favorite part of the event is getting to see their smiles when they come in for the day and to hear their stories. The great thing about the tournament is that I’ll get hugs and thank yous for the next three or four months at various events.”

Many of the fish caught were bluegill, colorful panfish ranging from just a few inches to almost a foot. But the catfish were biting too, with Brandon Tackett reeling in a 10-pound catfish for the biggest catch of the day.

Volunteers on four-wheelers rode around the lake and helped weigh and chart all the fish caught, as well as teach how to put the worms on the hook, hold the fish so the gills wouldn’t poke, how to take the hook out and how to remove the hooks that went a little deeper into the fish.

The volunteers also delivered food and drinks to everyone around the shoreline and took the fish over near the cabin, where volunteers from Cabela’s and Bret’s Buddies cleaned and fried the fish and served it along with fries, hot dogs, cookies and more. (Bret’s Buddies is a group of about seven families who help with many events that the Hammonds and their son, Bret, who just turned 11 and also has Down syndrome, either coordinate or are involved in).

“None of this would have been possible without the great volunteers,” said Jim, who began physical preparations on Father’s Day weekend. “The week before the tournament we had a group come out both Saturday and Sunday and cut and clear brush and make sure it was clear and safe for the kids, getting hay bales, bringing in port-a-potties…it’s a tremendous amount of work, but we have a tremendous group of volunteers.”

In all about 60 volunteers, including members of DADS (Dads Appreciating Down Syndrome) helped before or during the event, which also required lots of ice, tents for shade and a shopping list that included 30 cases of soda, 25 cases of water, 200 hot dogs, 150 brats, 350 buns, pounds and pounds of French fries, gallons and gallons of cooking oil…and more.

While this was the second year for the tournament, the event did take on a new name, switching from the PFF Father/Son Fishing Tournament to the Tackle Box Tournament, as this year the gals were invited to join in on the fun. And they didn’t miss a beat, catching just about as many fish as the boys before the afternoon heat started to roll in.

On the girls’ side, the big winners were Mackenzie Baniak for the biggest fish caught and Miki Cunningham for most fish caught at 30.

On the boys’ side, Justin Moslander won for most fish caught at 25 and the big winner was Brandon Tackett, who caught the biggest fish, and also won the trophy for tallest fish tale, a competition in which fishermen could come tell a tale about their day.

And AJ Pujols, who helped hand out the trophies along with Bret Hammond, was the winner of a giant pair of antlers on the heels of catching more than 30 fish.

But the day was not just about the fish, or the fishing crew, but also a time to remember two angels who have been near and dear to the PFF. Gina Kelly, an advisory board member and the photographer for the PFF, and Brad Feldt, a young adult with DS, had both attended the inaugural tournament in 2011, but each passed away earlier this year.

So during preparations for the tournament, Jim had two flower bushes planted in their honor. Both Gina’s husband, Dave, and Brad’s parents and sister came to the fishing tournament this year to help.

“I just wanted to have a way to have them be a part of the day, they were such a big part of the day the year before, and I knew Gina and Brad would be in everyone’s heart,” Jim said. “I thought having those flower bushes there would add some comfort to me and their families, which it did.”

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Date:
July 19, 2012
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