The Caring Side of the Catfish Community
by Ron Presley
Each year more and more tournaments have used the popularity of catfishing to benefit various recipients in need.
In my six years as editor of CatfishNOW I have witnessed a definite trend to use the sport of catfishing to aid individuals in need or to benefit organizations that in turn use their resources to the benefit of others.
Two of the most popular causes seem to be children with disabilities and our military, both veterans and active duty. Sometimes a benefit event is established for an angler who lost his home to a fire or maybe lost his tackle to a thief. No matter the size of the need, the catfish community has been willing and able to step up and help.
These charity events are normally created by a lone individual or two with an idea to do something good for someone else. After a couple of years observing this trend, it is obvious that in addition to the creators of the events there is an army of volunteers waiting on the sidelines to join and support the causes.
Take Patriot Catfishing, Inc. for example. It all started in 2019 when Kevin Breedlove, a veteran himself, began bringing wounded warriors together to fish and mix with other veterans. Patriot Catfishing Inc. builds upon the camaraderie and brotherhood that grows naturally between those who have served their country and extends it to the water. Breedlove uses the pursuit of trophy catfish as his modus operandi. It is his way of giving back.
Kevin found an instant ally in his brother Roger who shares the same interest and desire to honor and give back to veterans through catfishing. They often take disabled veterans fishing on their own. They began by financing the operation out of their own pockets but as the program grew new relationships were established and as their resources grew more vets and active duty military could be served.
“Our major focus is disabled vets,” explained Kevin Breedlove. “But a lot goes into defining a disabled vet. There are wounds that you can’t see. So if someone out there is on active duty and serving their county that wants to go fishing, I want to get them out fishing. For every single disabled vet that wants to go fishing, Patriot Catfishing wants to take them fishing. Especially Vietnam vets. They were treated so badly when they came home.”
It is very touching what this organization does to get these guys and gals in the boat and out fishing. Because of who it’s for there are plenty of volunteers interested in helping and other organizations interested in spreading the kindness.
One example of spreading the kindness to a family with a child in need comes from Brent and Carolyn Jones. They used their connection with the Poor Boys Catfishing Tournament Trail, directed by John Ritchie, to instigate their plan to help others.
They carefully select a recipient and plan from there. From that first charity event, an annual benefit catfish tournaments was created. Now, each year, the Poor Boy’s Catfishing Tournament Trail produces a tournament to aid a needy child with Brent and Carolyn at the helm.
“Our first recipient was from Illinois,” recalled Carolyn. “She was identified by a fisherman who knew the family. The second family was from our hometown and was a brother and sister who both had cancer. Her father was one of my students from my first year teaching. The third child was from Illinois and recommended by Blackout Bait and Tackle. This year’s child was originally from my hometown but recently moved to southern Indiana. I found her through a teaching colleague who had her in class.”
Their objective is to find a child whose family has some connection with fishing. Then they make contact with the family to be assured that there is a need to be filled. If everything checks out the child is selected and the tournament planning proceeds.
“These tournaments have grown tremendously from the beginning,” noted Brent. “Our first tournament raised around $9,000 with about 40 boats. The second tournament had close to 60 boats and raised over $15,000. The third tournament fell after Covid and the boat numbers were down to 40 but the money still came in at $15,000. This year we had around 46 boats and raised over $16,000. It has been neat seeing these families from the past contribute back to the tournament trail.”
The family that benefited from the first event donated an item for this year’s auction. They also support the effort by fishing in the tournaments. The grandfather of the second family to benefit donated hogs for the pulled pork meal the past three years. Last year’s family came to this year’s event and supported this year’s child through fishing and donations to the auction.
“Carolyn and I enjoy supporting benefit tournaments,” stated Brent. “We find joy in doing our part to help people in their time of need. Whether it be an adult or a child in need, if we can help do our part to make their time of struggle better, it makes us feel better.”
It has been four years now that Brent and Carolyn began running their own benefit tournament with Poor Boys Catfishing Trail. After seeing the responses of people to the tournaments they put on in Evansville, Indiana, they wanted to get more involved in other benefit tournaments around the US. Over the years they have participated in and supported many benefit tournaments from Lake Erie to the Tennessee River.
“We hope to participate in more in the coming year,” concluded Carolyn.
Brent and Carolyn Jones and Kevin and Roger Breedlove are outstanding examples of the cadre of people who willingly give their time to the benefit of others. Happily there are many more in the catfish community that step up and do their part.
Editor’s Note: These are just two examples of #catfishclass. Many more exist. Currently I have identified the following catfish related organizations that spread kindness and hope to their own communities and beyond. CatfishNow salutes them and thanks them for their efforts to change the lives of others in positive ways.
Patriot Catfishing, Inc.(Veterans) Kevin Breedlove
Poor Boys Catfishing Trail (Benefit) Brent Jones
Battle on the Bay (Lake Erie) Craig Williams
Christmas for Kids (Wheeler Lake) Edmund Crowden
BKPC Nation (AL/KY) Joey Middleton
Reelin’ for Leftie (KS) Naura Johnson
Tackle 22 Fishing (Veterans) Edward Andersen
Paula Smith Fundraiser(TN Mad Catters) Lewis Miller, Steve Sumner, and Randy Chappell