Kids in the bass lane

Recently, I had the privilege of participating in the 4th Annual Bobby Lane Cup — a kids’ fishing event set up as a fundraiser for academic scholarships.

The tournament was held out of Camp Mack on the shores of the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes in central Florida, and more than 500 people attended. Among them were 160 young competitors from 22 different high schools some traveling from as far away as Kentucky to participate.

The tournament format pairs kids into teams, who are then escorted by volunteer boat captains (many from area bass clubs) to various points throughout Lake Kissimmee and its connecting waterways. Tournament hours run from 7 a.m. - 2 p.m., followed by an official weigh-in, awards ceremony and other related festivities.

Although a winning team is declared, the truth is that every kid who participates goes home a winner. Each young angler is awarded a gift bag stuffed full of tackle, trinkets and gift cards, plus a commemorative hat and shirt. Those that catch the most fish win trophies.

For kids under the age of nine, volunteers conduct the Reel Kids Casting Competition, where contestants also vie for prizes.

Growth Spurts

Since its inception, the Bobby Lane Cup has experienced exponential growth. The first year only 34 kids participated. The next year, however, that number tripled. And after seeing the number of kids at this year’s event, there’s no telling how big this might get.

The Cup’s growth and success is, of course, due to the many supporters involved. And that includes family, friends and a lengthy list of steadfast volunteers. It’s also garnered many supporting sponsors, as well — from local businesses to major national brands, like Bass Pro Shops, Tackle Warehouse, Beef ‘O’Brady’s and Costa Del Mar … all contributing to the cause.

Tracy Ducar, Madeline Lane (Bobby's wife) and Jenna Sutton give away prizes to the young participants.

Serving as a fundraiser, the Cup collects donations and a modest participation fee from each angler. Those dollars are then placed in a scholarship fund managed by the Polk (County) Education Foundation. The foundation matches every dollar raised through the event, effectively doubling the proceeds.

This year they raised more than $12,000.

Pro Endorsement

Among those supporting this year’s event were touring pros Shaw Grigsby, Terry Scroggins, J.T. Kinney, and of course, Chris and Arnie Lane — a veritable who’s who of Florida fishing personalities. Besides giving their time, each pro donated product samples from their respective sponsors.

Even the pros come out to support the event. Clockwise from back left, that's Shaw Grigsby, Terry Scroggins, Arnie Lane, J.T. Kenney, me, Bobby Lane and Chris Lane.

Although Camp Mack is geographically remote, patrons had no problem finding the place. The enthusiasm of the crowd with all the young anglers parading their team colors brought new life to the old fish camp, and it was easy getting caught up in the festivities.

For Bobby Lane, it’s a way of giving something back to the sport that has brought him so much success.

Anyone interested in donating time or money, or learning more about the Bobby Lane Cup, check out the Lakeland Junior Bassmasters or contact Derrick Boswell at Bartow High School in Bartow, Fla. Both are partners with the B.A.S.S. Nation.

You can also find Bobby Lane on Facebook.                        

Follow Bernie Schultz on Facebook or through his website.