West Virginia Bass Federation - FISHTAILS
Oceana Holds Annual Casting Kids Event Ahead Of Devastating Floods

By Chris Lawrence

Jared Cook is ready to go fishing in his prize boat - What A Catch !!

They say timing is everything. West Virginia Bass Federation member Tim Bailey of Oceana couldn't agree more. Bailey held his annual July Casting Kids event July 7th at the Oceana City Park. 129 children enjoyed casting Zebco 33's at a target on a sunny afternoon, which for many proved to be their last day of any enjoyment for many weeks to come.

A day later Wyoming County endured nearly 11" of rain in the course of four-to-five hours. It turned the Guyandotte River and every other stream-named and unnamed-in the county into raging torrents. Homes from Boone County to Welch were washed off their foundations. More than a thousand southern West Virginia residents, including several WV Bass Federation members, lost everything they owned. Nobody could remember any disaster that equaled the destruction left in the wake of the storm.

"If it had come a day earlier, we would have been ruined." Notes Bailey, thankful his own home was secure from the high water.

Bailey's idea to get local children involved in fishing and the Casting Kids program was spawned by a trip to the BassMasters Classic in Greensboro.

"I saw the competition they did at the Classic that year and thought, we ought to do something like that." Says Bailey. "Hunting and fishing is big here and I believe getting these kids involved helps keep them away from some of the other problems that we have in this area.

So far, Bailey's idea seems to have worked.

"All summer long we see local kids going to the local fishing ponds carrying their tackle boxes, fishing poles, and sleeping bags that they've won in the competition."

Bailey approached the Oceana Chamber of Commerce with the idea in 1997. At the time, the Chamber was looking for new events and people to run them for the town's annual July 4th Heritage Festival. With the backing of his wife, Stephanie, Bailey got the green light from the town leaders and took the bull by the horns.

"I handle the competition and the practices, she handles the paperwork and registration." Says Bailey who now has the event down to a routine. "We recruit our own help. It takes about 17-people to run my competition."

The first year 87-children turned out to take part in the event. It was a grand showing for a first run, but Bailey wasn't satisfied. He reached an all-time high last year with 170-kids taking part. The goal is to not only get children involved, but to let them leave with something in hand.

"Every kid gets a prize." Notes Bailey. "I've had a lot of help from a lot of sponsors providing prizes. We give away everything from tackle boxes and sleeping bags to bicycles and boats. Every year no child has left this competition empty-handed."

This year's grand prize was a 12-foot Lowe aluminum fishing boat equipped with a Johnson outboard, trolling motor, seats, oars, and trailer generously provided by Mountaineer Boat Sales in Beaver. . Eight-year-old Jared Cook was the lucky young angler who's winning ticket was drawn from the hat.

"The look on his face was priceless. He didn't even speak he just fell back on the floor! I loved it!"

Bailey splits the youngsters into a younger and older age group as the competition requires, then draws a winner from both divisions for a new bicycle. All names are placed back into the hat for the grand prize drawing, so that all get an equal chance to win.

The event is no small undertaking. Bailey and his army of volunteers spend countless hours lining the local tennis courts with artificial surface, stringing flagged bunting, registering children for the event, and a thousand other tasks. He has several lanes going for practice. Children are given actual instruction on the techniques of pitching, flipping, and casting for ten-to-15-minues before they're moved to the competition lanes. For Bailey, it's a labor of love that he and his bride gladly shoulder.

"I couldn't do it without my wife and a lot of other people." Says Bailey. "We don't have any kids, and we really enjoy it. It's a lot of hard work, but at the end of the day when you see those kids' faces it makes it all worth while."

Truly it is worth-while, especially this year, when a fun day of casting and winning was followed by a disaster of literally Biblical proportions that greeted many of those same faces the next day at their front doors.