Georgia CastingKids Compete Against Bill Dance at Atlanta Motor Speedway
HAMPTON, Ga. -- Georgia's state champions in the Bassmaster CastingKids program stood at the start/finish line of Atlanta Motor Speedway during pre-race festivities Sunday and demonstrated their skills with a fishing rod and reel. They had no idea they were about to meet angling legend Bill Dance. What's more, they were going to compete against him!
C.T. Lyles of Loganville, the Georgia champion in the 11-14 division, and 7-10 champion Hope Newkirk of Shady Dale each got one practice cast, then were scored on flipping, pitching and casting from 10, 20 and 30 feet, respectively. After each young angler took a turn, Dance followed.
Lyles has been fishing "ever since I could hold a rod." The 14-year-old likes to fish for anything and has competed twice in the state Bassmaster CastingKids competition in Georgia, representing the state at the national semi-finals in Tulsa, Oklahoma, this year.
Newkirk, 10, has also competed twice at the state level of CastingKids, winning her division this year. She prefers fishing for bass and has a 2-pounder to her credit.
The casting competition before NASCAR's Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 was coined the "Bassmaster CastingKids Checkered Line Challenge" was a joint effort discussed at last year's race by Ed Clark, President and General Manager of Atlanta Motor Speedway and Stacy Twiggs, BASS Youth Manager. Clark is an avid fisherman and competes in BASS tournaments whenever he has the chance.
Don Corkran, BASS' Federation Director, said the CastingKids program was designed to teach youngsters the basic methods that anglers use in presenting lures to fish.
"Fishing is a target sport" Corkran said, "whether it's a bull's-eye like here or a lily pad. That's what we teach the kids."
The competition started with flipping, a short-line, precision technique for delivering a lure in heavy cover. The competitors used their fishing rods like pendulums to swing lures to a paper target 10 feet away and taped to the racing track.
The second technique of the competition is "pitching," which combines the underhanded presentation style of flipping with a more conventional cast. Pitching is especially effective at medium distances of 15 to 25 feet around heavy cover.
The final test was a conventional cast of 30 feet. Each young angler got one practice cast, and then was scored on an official attempt.
Though Lyles claimed he doesn't usually do well under pressure, he managed to hit the 40-point circle with both his 10-foot flip and his 30-foot cast. His 20-foot pitch scored a 30.
Newkirk scored the day's only bull's-eye with her flip, but missed to the left with her pitch before rebounding with a 40-point score on her cast.
Dance dropped his flip for 40 points, but overshot the target on his other attempts.
BASS began the Bassmaster CastingKids program in 1991. The goal of the program is to get youngsters involved in fishing and to foster in each participant an appreciation of and concern for the outdoors.
Over its 13 years, the Bassmaster CastingKids program has reached over 1.5 million children and given away more than $2.9 million in cash, prizes and scholarships.