- Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 November 2013 11:21
- Published on Wednesday, 13 November 2013 11:19
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A little something special was added to this year’s Annual Colonial Beach Rockfish Tournament, sponsored by the Colonial Beach Chamber of Commerce and the Colonial Beach Volunteer Fire Department, and hosted by Dockside Restaurant and Blue Heron Pub.
The tournament, held on Nov. 9 and 10, offered a special category called the special anglers, alongside all the youth, ladies and mens divisions. Competitors with special needs competed in the event this year for what is probably the first ever competition for special needs folks to include a cash purse award.
The Fish that didn’t get away
After Travis Smith participated, with his family, in a youth angler competition, his family needed to find a way for his to compete on his level, but along with family members.
Travis has some unique challenges; he is on the autistic spectrum and has speech and articulation challenges. Travis’s father, Sawyer “Joe” Smith and older brother Sander Smith co-founded the Special Angler Foundation.
The mission of the Special Angler Foundation is to promote the inclusion of the special needs community in general public freshwater and saltwater fishing tournaments.
Joe and Sander were inspired to create an event that would allow young special needs fishermen and women to compete within general fishing tournaments in their own category but would also allow the boat hosting the special competitors to participate in the other competitions as well including the Calcutta award.
During Travis’s last year in junior competition the Smith family ran into quite an ordeal. After several mechanical issues with their 20-year old boat, “Fish Don’t Care” they were almost unable to deliver the winning catch.
Sander, who was at the dock reporting the catches turned in that day, told the family that Travis’s mackerel had a good chance of winning, but the boat had run aground on a sand bar. In this particular competition the fish had to be delivered by water. So Joe put the fish in the bucket and the judges transferred declaration of boat #6 from the “Fish Don’t Care” to the bucket. Joe jumped in the water and swam the bucket and fish to the weigh station, where Travis’s fish weighing 2.2 lb. beating out the highest fish brought in previously weighing in at 2.1 lb.
The Colonial Beach Rockfish Tournament was a huge success for the Special Angler Foundation.
The foundation picks one family to be the host family and ambassador for the special needs community. For the Colonial Beach Rockfish Tournament, the Howard Family contacted the Colonial Beach Chamber to introduce the idea of including the special angler category. Rob Howard and his daughter Morgan competed in this week’s event and Morgan came in first place with her 6.5 lb. rockfish.
Another competitor, Michael Hoyt would not have been able to compete had it not been for the generosity of Captain Mike Moran and his son Colin who volunteered to take out special angler Michael and his father Jim on the 30’ Marleigh II. The Morans of Cobb Island responded to a post, put up by Joe Smith on the Tidal Fish Fishing Forum, requesting a host boat. Michael won second place and the $100 purse.
Smith expressed his gratitude for the endurance of the Marleigh II team, in fishing a two-day tournament with the Hoyts. Smith also remarked that, “Jim and Michael drove down from Vienna, VA both Saturday and Sunday to reach the dock at 6 a.m. for early fishing departure. That showed me the commitment a dad had to his son, a brain cancer survivor, for making his weekend truly special and an event to remember.”
As for Travis he had a great time and came in third place. Smith said, “I don’t think we will ever be able to say enough kind words in favor of the Chamber of Commerce and the Volunteer Fire Department for adding this division and how they treated us. The venue and this kindness was beyond expectations.”