Memorial fishing tournament June 19

Published 10:12 am Saturday, June 12, 2010

DELAWARE—At age 12, fishing was “something to do” for best friends Christopher Ray and John Barksdale.

It turned into their passion.

Now Barksdale, 22, would like to share that passion with a memorial fishing tournament for Ray, who at 22, was killed in August in a car accident while working as a deputy for the Southampton County Sheriff’s Department. The tournament will be held 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 19, at Hercules Boat Ramp along the Nottoway River.

Proceeds will benefit the Christopher Ray Memorial Scholarship fund for students pursuing a career in public safety.

“It’s going to be a great cause,” said Barksdale, who graduated from Southampton Academy in 2005 and was Ray’s college roommate. “He would really be proud of this if he was here. There was nothing he loved more than the Nottoway River and being with his friends.”

Barksdale and Ray grew up fishing.

“We went pretty much every day after school,” Barksdale said.

Before they could drive, Barksdale’s mother, Esther Francis, would drive the pair and haul their boat to the Nottoway in Courtland.

“They would fish all day,” Francis said. “Christopher loved to fish. That was his life.”

When the boys were 14, they hauled the boat to the river with a four-wheeler. At 16, they got licenses and pickups.

“It was all over from there,” said Barksdale, a senior at Virginia Tech. “At first it (fishing) was something to do, but the longer we did it, the more we did it. In the summer, it was nothing for us to leave on Thursday, camp maybe two nights and no one would see us.”

The tournament entry fee is $60 per boat and includes T-shirts; two people are allowed per boat.

Trophies will be awarded for largest bream, bass, gar and black fish.

Donations toward the scholarship can be made. Checks should be written to Fraternal Order of Police No. 56 and mailed to Francis at P.O. Box 444, Courtland, Va., 23837.

Registration begins at 6 a.m. at the Hercules Clubhouse or can be done in advance by calling Francis at 653-9367.