Fishing tourney nets strongest turnout

Published 11:35 am Saturday, June 21, 2014

Morgan Story with a 5-pound, 10-ounce catfish that he caught on the Nottoway River during the Christopher D. Ray Public Safety Memorial Scholarship Fishing Tournament. -- STEPHEN H. COWLES | TIDEWATER NEWS

Mason Story with a 22.4-pound catfish that he caught on the Nottoway River during the Christopher D. Ray Public Safety Memorial Scholarship Fishing Tournament. — STEPHEN H. COWLES | TIDEWATER NEWS

FRANKLIN—Though not everybody won trophies, everyone had fun at the fifth annual Christopher D. Ray Public Safety Memorial Scholarship Fishing Tournament.

One sign of its growing success was the turnout of 40 teams; the first in 2010 had 10 boats. The event took place on the Nottoway River by the Hercules Boat Ramp off General Thomas Highway. Another example was the strong turnout of people at a beef barbecue later at the fairgrounds.

“At the time, we were extremely happy with the turnout. It’s unbelievable how much it has grown over the past five years,” said John Barksdale. “While raising over $10,000 for the scholarship fund, the 300 people in attendance spent the evening enjoying a great meal, great live music and most of all great fellowship.”

He initiated the tourney in memory of his friend because when Chris wasn’t working, he was fishing.

Mason Story, a fellow fisherman, spoke highly of their mutual friend.

“He was a good buddy and a hard fisherman. A real good guy. He would do anything for you,” said Story.

Tragically, all that came to end in August 2009. Chris was in a fatal car accident while on patrol as a deputy for the Southampton County Sheriff’s Department.

The competition that Barksdale and friends established grew into a fundraiser for a scholarship. The money comes from entry fees, donations and ticket sales at a follow-up dinner and concert.

This year’s scholarship recipient is Samantha White, who graduated from Southampton High School and will attend Jefferson College of Health Science in Roanoke. She is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in emergency management services, and plans to become a National Registry EMT-Paramedic.

“She is very active in the Franklin Fire and Rescue and Hunterdale Volunteer Fire departments, and was even awarded the 2013 Junior Firefighter of the Year award from the Hunterdale Vol FD,” said Barksdale. “We are very excited to have Samantha as this year’s recipient, and wish her all the best at Jefferson College.”

Although the project is a personal one for him, he hasn’t been doing this alone. Kevin Gunn, for example, has helped organize and strengthen the tourney. Barksdale said Gunn — who didn’t know Chris — has been “extremely instrumental in the success of the tournament over the past couple of years. Kevin is one of the few people I have ever met that loves fishing the Nottoway as much as Christopher did… His tournament experience has really helped me evolve and improve the CDRMS tournament.”

“I cannot put into words how much it means to me, not just to honor my best friend’s legacy, but to do it by including all of the things that he loved most,” Barksdale continued. “Anyone who knew Christopher can tell you that there was nothing he loved more than a great day fishing on the Nottoway and a great party with his friends.

“I want to thank everyone who has, and continues to help us grow the scholarship fund. I am forever grateful for your support.”

Winners of the Fifth Annual CDRMS Fishing Tournament:

Largemouth/Smallmouth Bass — Andrew Darden, 5 pounds, 9 ounces.

Longnose Gar — Keith Vick and K.J. Vick, 9 pounds. 8 ounces.

Most Accumulative Species Caught — Stephen Drake and Wesley Vick sunfish, largemouth bass, bowfin, longnose gar, chain pickerel, crappie, yellow perch, white perch, warmouth, catfish, 10 in total.

Sunfish — Keith Vick and K.J .Vick, 1 pound, 11 ounces.

Bowfin — Bennett Flowers and Bobby Barksdale, 8 pounds, 9 ounces.