Thomas Shepard participated in the Bad Cat Classic with Brandon and Blake Sasser.
They pulled off a second-place finish.
Bad Cat Classic-Focus on Youth
by Ron Presley
This unique catfish/bream tournament engages youth in the outdoors with a mission to create anglers for a lifetime.
When a fishing tournament has a major focus on youth anglers it gets my attention. The Bad Cat Classic tournament was held on August 27, 2022, in my home state of Florida.
The 2022 event was held at the Caryville Boat Ramp on the Choctawhatchee River in Holmes County, Florida. The event creates an opportunity for young anglers to be engaged in tournament fishing while learning about conservation of the resource.
“Hunters and anglers play a vital role in wildlife conservation,” stated Kalyn Waters, County Extension Director, Agricultural and Natural Resources, UF/IFAS Extension Holmes County. “The mission of the Bad Cat Classic is to get youth involved in fishing to not only improve their quality of life but also to foster the next generation of outdoorsmen/women to support the national conservation model.”
Billed as the Bad Cat Classic, the day’s events included both a bream tournament and a catfish tournament. The bream fishing takes place during the day and the catfish tournament is staged in the late afternoon and into the night. It is all part of a program called Conservation for Generations (see sidebar) which is aimed at raising awareness of natural resource management for the next generation.
The bream tournament focuses specifically on youth anglers by requiring each team to include a youth 16 years old or younger. It is a great way to engage kids and get them interested in fishing.
The catfish tournament does not have the same requirement. Teams can fish without a youth but they are required to pay an additional $100 to compete. The additional money is not part of the 100 percent tournament payout but goes directly to a fund that is used to purchase lifetime fishing (and hunting) licenses that are awarded to Holmes County youth.
Every youth who fishes in the tournament, either bream or catfish, is entered into a drawing for a lifetime fishing license. This year’s sponsors for the license are Sheriff John Tate; Sam Bailey, Holmes County Clerk of Courts; and First Federal Bank of Bonifay.
Many memories are made when young anglers share the boat and the excitement of catfishing. Although the size of the fish is usually not important to the youth anglers, this year’s Bad Cat Classic produced some very nice catfish that will only add to the memories (see photos).
“We loved watching 15-year-old Trey Rushing fish with his grandpa, Travis Rushing,” Waters said. “They fished the Bad Cat Classic last year too and this year they took the win with three really nice fish. Catching those fish will give them memories that will last a lifetime. And that is what Conservation for Generations is all about.”
The top teams at the Bad Cat Classic were Trey Rushing and Travis Rushing in first place; Brandon Sasser, Blake Sasser, and Alen Shepard in second place; Colby Pugh and Ryan Wesner in third place; and Jacob Cole won the Youth Target Fish category which goes to the youth with a fish closest to 18 pounds.
“Watching the kids be so proud of their fish and having them there with their dads, grandparents, and mentors is special,” remarked Waters. “Making memories and learning about conservation is so special and makes the work worthwhile.”
Anyone interested in including Conservation for Generations as a part of their tournament can contact Waters (firstname.lastname@example.org). Ultimately any tournament can easily include Conservation for Generations if they would like to raise funds and purchase licenses for youth who participate in their tournament.
“Interested parties can do this same type of program in their own area,” noted Waters. “They can purchase licenses for youth in their respective areas. It doesn’t have to be Florida. Youth tournaments in Alabama, for example, could award Alabama licenses.”
“We gave two of the kids that fished the tournament a lifetime fishing license,” concluded Waters. “Jacob Cole, after winning the Youth Target Fish category was so excited to also win a lifetime license. His family was so grateful for the opportunity. The other lifetime license went to River Barnhill. He will have many years to enjoy the pleasures of Florida fishing.”
Waters and the Holmes County Extension group will be hosting more tournaments throughout the year so readers can follow the Panhandle Outdoor Connection on their Facebook page for more details.
Conservation for Generations
The Conservation for Generations program is an innovative and multifaceted program of UF/IFAS Extension Holmes County, Florida. Among its mission parts is an objective to build a network of mentors for youth conservationists in the region and increase the number of youth who participate in natural resources management and conservation minded hunting and fishing.
The Bad Cat Classic is one of several programs that make up the Conservation for Generations program which focuses on getting youth involved in hunting and fishing to support the mission of conservation through natural resource management.
Proceeds raised through the tournament (and other programs) go directly to the Randy Adams Memorial Lifetime Hunting/Fishing License Scholarship program. This program, another part of Conservation for Generations, uses the revenue enhancement funds generated to offer scholarships that award Lifetime Hunting and/or Fishing Licenses to Florida youth.
The program is conducted in memory of Randy Adams, who helped start the program in 2015. To date, a total of 16 youths have received lifetime hunting/fishing licenses in the state of Florida as a result of the program.
More information on the Conservation for Generations program can be obtained through Kalyn Waters (email@example.com).