Although Travis never took on to fishing right away, we learned he did great driving the boat which gave the rest of us a chance to work the lines while trolling, thus he has always been a part of our crew during the Spanish Mackerel Tournament and rockfish outings with friends. I discovered that Travis really took to fishing when he and I went out one day in September 2011 fishing for flounder. Travis decided to practice his casting of a little jig in preparation for a school fishing field trip. He started landing speckled trout all on his own. I quickly converted to his technique and also started catching.
Prior to the 2012 tournament, my son Sander and I began discussing the idea of a Special Angler category for fishermen like Travis. We had learned over the years how easily we could motivate Travis to participate in things with a little bit of money as a reward. As soon as Travis learned that he could use money in exchange for his own computer accessories (and or computers), he would do just about anything to earn some. We have often used money rewards for him to take on new Special Olympic Track and Field events that he would otherwise shy away from (for which he eventually excelled, e.g. 400 Meters, long jump, etc.). With these thoughts in mind, we had hoped to secure the category for 2012, but we approached the officials too late into the planning stages.
During the 2012 Spanish Mackerel Tournament, Travis (15 years old at the time) remained our last family hope for the coveted Youth Angler award. I saw how the potential bounty of the Youth Award not only motivated me, but my entire 2012 tournament team in encouraging Travis (nearly demanding him) to take a role in manning the rods. He had rarely done that in previous tournaments. We had come close in previous years and often saw our standings bumped down on the leader board from 1st place to totally out of contention. Travis won 1st place in the Youth Angler category in 2012 tournament and earned a $200 cash prize which he used to purchase an iPad with Diana (he still threatens to buy her out of the 50% share). The award plaque that he also received is maintained on our fireplace mantel (a memorial of great pride). The dramatic story of our catch was documented by Lisa Hinto-Valdrighi, a reporter for the Rappahannock Record.
Travis’ success convinced us that a Special Angler category would work and would motivate families to stay active on the water in an event like the Spanish Mackerel Tournament. Throughout this past year, Sander has continued to coordinate the effort to establish the award with Kathy Pittman, the director of the YCLC tournament.
As a family, we will be your ambassadors for this first ever general public fishing tournament with a designated cash purse for special needs. If it produces what we hope the tournament did for Travis, our goal is to see this spread to other fishing tournaments throughout the country. We plan to use the Special Angler Foundation as as means to that end.