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Hundreds of youth and their families were up at dawn Saturday morning, lining up to take part in the Cherokee National Holiday Youth Fishing Derby.
Bass Anglers Sportsman Society Bassmaster Jason Christie, a Cherokee Nation citizen, helped coordinate this year’s event. He and his sponsor provided free fishing rods to the first 300 youth signed up at the event, 400 T-shirts, snacks, drinks and a long list of door prizes.
“We have all kinds of door prizes that will be given out throughout the morning,” said Andrea Taylor, coordinator for this year’s derby. “We have bicycles, tents, sleeping bags; it’s going to be a great morning.”
Christie said he enjoys giving back to the community.
“I look at this long line of kids, and I think this is something I can do for them. I want to give back to the communities.”
Christie said when he was a child, he never dreamed he’d accomplish so much so young.
“When I’d go fishing when I was 8 or 10, I never thought I’d be doing it for a living,” he said. “I was raised around here, and I was just like any one of these kids.”
According to FLW Outdoors’ website, Christie has been a Forrest L. Wood Tour Pro for six years, with 10 career tournament wins and 37 top-10 finishes. To date, he has earned $959,403.
Christie believes it’s important to give youth healthy alternatives.
“If, out of these 400 or however many kids takes part in this today, I can keep one fishing instead of getting into trouble, I’m happy,” said Christie. “So many of the Cherokee communities have been so supportive of me, and I really want to return that support.”
The derby was catch and release, and Christie volunteered to have pictures taken with youth and their fish before they were returned to the stock pond.
Martin Walls brought his son and four grandchildren to the event. Travis helped his children – Clay, 6; Kaylen, 8; Presley, 4, and Ellie, 3 – bait hooks and cast their lines.
“These kids love to fish,” said Martin. “I think this is a great event today, and the kids are really enjoying it.”