Gregg Holshouser, outdoors columnist | Fishing tournament keeps bringing the kids back

July 22, 2011 

It's a toss-up, Michael Smith says, between who gets more out of the Bobby Clarke Memorial Reel Kids, Reel Fun Fishing Tournament - the kids or the volunteers.

The tournament has grown exponentially as the 10th annual edition - scheduled for July 30 out of Georgetown Landing Marina - approaches. Smith, one of the event's organizers from the Florence Bluewater Fishing Club, said 16 youngsters participated in the first tournament, but the number has swelled to an average of over 160 the last three to four years.

"It's the most rewarding thing I do," said Smith earlier this week. "It's the biggest event the fishing club is involved with. We have the same volunteers every year that do all the cooking, the same weighmaster, and so on. All the volunteers look forward to it. It's as rewarding to the volunteers as it is for the kids to participate in."

The youngsters get plenty out of the tournament, too. From toddlers as young as age 3 to teenagers up to 16, they enjoy a day of fishing on the Atlantic Ocean or in the Winyah Bay vicinity and then receive recognition, prizes and trophies at a fun awards cookout afterward at the marina. They get indoctrinated into the world of saltwater fishing and learn a good dose of conservation and safety during the day.

In 2006, the focus of the tournament changed. Originally named the Reel Kids, Reel Fun Fishing Tournament, it was renamed in honor of Capt. Bobby Clarke, a popular captain and member of the Florence Bluewater Fishing Club who passed away in the aftermath of a boating accident out of Murrells Inlet.

Earlier that year in May, Clarke and his crew and passengers were thrown overboard into the Atlantic Ocean when his charter boat, Super Suds II, capsized. Clarke passed away overnight but not before ensuring that a passenger he had drifted away from the boat with was able to be saved the next day. Clarke was the only one of seven men aboard Super Suds II that did not survive the mishap.

The accident was a classic case of the captain and crew (mate Wayne Smith) ensuring the safety of the vessel's passengers.

The easy-going Clarke was a fixture in the early years of the tournament and after his death, the tournament has put additional focus on boating safety. Adults who wear life jackets when the boat is underway during the tournament receive special recognition.

"One of the things we really kind of push is the safety issue," Smith said. "Since we lost Bobby we try to make everybody a little more safety conscious."

There is no entry fee to participate in the tournament but the marina must be notified of plans to participate by 8 a.m. the morning of the event. To enter, call Georgetown Landing Marina at 546-1776. Any person or business interested in supporting the tournament as a sponsor is urged to call Smith at 307-0425.

Pee Dee Dove Hunt

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources and the S.C. Public Service Authority (Santee Cooper) will conduct a public drawing for the opening day of dove season on Sept. 3 at the Pee Dee Station Site Wildlife Management Area Public Dove Field in Florence County. A legible application must be submitted by 5 p.m. Aug. 12. Applications for the hunt ($15 application fee) and other draw dove hunts are available online at www.dnr.sc.gov/hunting/huntapp.html or by calling 803-734-3609. The fee will be refunded to those not drawn for the hunt.

Up to four people can apply together with a maximum of 120 hunters to be selected from the drawing for the Pee Dee Station hunt, which will begin at noon Sept. 3. All applicants will be notified of selection status and mailed a notice by Aug. 23.

Contact the S.C. DNR office in Columbia at 803-734-3886 or Florence at 661-4768 for additional information on all dove hunting opportunities.

Contact GREGG HOLSHOUSER at 651-9028 or wholshouser@sc.rr.com.

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