“When you think of a catfi sh tournament you think of a couple of guys and some stinky bait — you know what I am saying? But we have taken this tournament stuff to a different level.” 050510-st-jude-logo.gif

These are the words of the 6th Annual Catfi sh Tournament Director Robert Kitchen.

In the past five years the event has raised more than $20,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. This year they are hoping to add significantly to that figure.

“We started with 19 boats paying $250 to win,” said Kitchen. “Now we are at more than 100 boats which makes us the biggest catfish tournament in North Carolina. We are paying $3,000 to win, and there is a chance to win a pick-up truck.”

There is a captain’s meeting on Saturday, May 8 at the Hope Mills Shriner’s Club from 6-11 p.m. Dinner and entertainment will be provided.

This year the tournament will be held on May 15 and 16. Registration will open at 6 a.m. and run until 9 a.m. at J.P. Riddle Stadium. The boats will blast off from the stadium at 8 a.m., but if you miss it there is still another hour of registration time.

“After blast off they can go anywhere on the Cape Fear river they want to ... from Buckhorn to Wilmington ...they can fish the whole span of the Cape Fear River,” said Kitchen. Weigh-in starts at 9 a.m. on Sunday. All boats have to be in by 10 a.m. There will be a polygraph examiner at weigh-in. The top three winning team captains must take a polygraph before any winnings will be declared.

While the fishermen are certainly expected to have a good time, the tournament is fish friendly.

“We do catch and release. We put all the fish back in the river because we are tournament fishermen and that might be the one we need for next time that will win,” said Kitchen.

“Plus we don’t want to deplete the river population of fish due to the fact that this is such a great river to fish in, and the more you take out the less there is gonna be. Last year we put back 1,866 pounds of fish — all alive”

Before the fish are put back in the river they are put into revive tanks and soaked in rejuvinade so that they are not put back into the river in a weak state. In order to maintain the health of the fish, the tournament has also changed the number of fi sh that can be weighed-in to three. It used to be fi ve fish.

While tournament participants enjoy a good time on the Cape Fear River catching catfi sh and competing for one of the many prizes that will be handed out, Kitchen and the event organizers are very focused on running a successful tournament because they support the cause ... the children and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“In our organization everybody is gung ho about it — we all know that we are blessed that our children don’t have cancer,” said Kitchen. “These kids didn’t ask for it, but they won’t get to run and play and stuff like that. So if we can give them a chance to that is all that matters in the world to us. There is just something so precious and special about children ... one of our philosophies is that the person’s life that you save could be the person that saves your life someday.”

For more information, check out myspace.com/FishingtoFightCancer or call 237-1343.

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