Winds Do Not Hamper Angling for Autism Fishing Tournament

By Don Gowen and Summer Cross

Decatur, AL – June 20  The 4th Annual Angling for Autism Fishing Tournament was held out of Ingalls Harbor on Wheeler Lake, Saturday, June 20. One hundred four anglers competed in the event.

The morning began with wind, storms and lighting but turned into a good day for fishing with the exception of wind that whipped the lake plus hot temperatures. Competitors returning to Ingalls Harbor for the 3:00 pm weigh-in from the extreme west end of the lake found the going quite difficult with water stirred-up by the persistent wind.

Winners Autism

Grant Hopson and Wes Ward of Hartselle, AL brought in 23.66 lbs. to take first place in the tournament. Photo Don Gowen, SFN

Grant Hopson and Wes Ward of Hartselle, AL brought in 23.66 lbs. to take first place in the benefit tournament for The Riley Behavioral & Educational Center in Decatur, AL. The team also bagged the big fish money with a 5.67 lb. largemouth. Hopson and Ward said they ran to about mid-lake and were fishing in 20 feet of water on a ridge with a big worm.

second place

Leon Brewington and Nathan Ragasa took second place weighing in 20.35 lbs. Photo Don Gowen, SFN

Leon Brewington and Nathan Ragasa took second place weighing in 20.35 lbs. Brewington and Ragasa said they ran down river and fished in 26 feet of water. The team fished with five lures to boat their five good keepers. Their lures were a dropshot, shakey head, crankbait, football jig, and a big worm.

Third place went to Jerry Lawler and Gene Johnson, Rogersville, AL for their 19.89 lbs. of bass. Their big fish weighed-in at 4.92 lbs. Kenny Terry and Samuel Wilhite brought 19.76 lbs. of fish to the scales that was good for a fourth place finish.

third place

Third place went to Jerry Lawler and Gene Johnson, Rogersville, AL for their 19.89 lbs. of bass. Photo Don Gowen SFN

At fifth was Jacob and Jimmy McNair for 19.58 lbs. The team graciously donated their $600 winnings to the tournament benefit recipient The Riley Center. Jerry Lemley, New Hope, AL, and Mike Bonner, Madison, AL took sixth place with 17.87 lbs. The pair had the big smallmouth for the day that went 4.92 lbs. for a bonus.  Lemley and Bonner said they fished up river in 20’ of water using a brush hog and jig.

Seventh place went to Charlie Hodle and Anthony James for 17.37 lbs. Patrick Cutten and Jason Borden locked-up eigth place with 17.19 lbs. Fishing alone, Byron Terry boated 17.05 lbs. and finished ninth.

The tenth and final paying finish went to Gerald Poole and Jonathan Poole with 16.89 lbs. The team said they fished downriver on deep ledges with jigs and swimbaits.

The Decatur Heritage Christian Academy provided bass club workers that supported the event. Staff from the Riley Behavioral & Educational Center, as well as many of the center’s supporters and volunteers, turned out to help.

Background on the tournament benefit

In December, 2014 the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE) was signed into law by President Obama. ABLE amended the federal tax code to allow Section 529 tax-exempt savings accounts for disability-related expenses. Alabama Senate Bill 226 became Act 2015-Riley_Logo442 in the 2015 regular session of the Alabama Legislature which establishes and implemented the ABLE program in Alabama. Act 2015-442 helps families of autistic children.

The Riley Center is a nonprofit, tax exempt organization whose mission is to provide comprehensive services using a multidisciplinary approach to fulfill the urgent need for early diagnosis and treatment for children and their families faced with autism. The staff  of the center implements the most effective research-based treatments and educational practices in a caring and supportive environment. The Riley Center feels a strong sense of responsibility and commitment to the community to assist in a broader understanding of autism’s spectrum of disorders and the importance of community involvement in the future success of children as they mature into adulthood.

Currently there is no state or federal funding to support effective treatments like those offered at the Riley Center. No child should be denied the chance for an improved quality of life due to lack of treatment choices or economic restraints.

Mark Bradshaw, and his wife Holly, sought a way to support and “give back” to the Riley Center for what the organization had accomplished for their son Parker. Staging and coordinating the annual Autism Fishing Tournament was what they established to provide money to the center.

To ensure success of the tournament, not only for the center but for the participating anglers, sponsors contributed to the guaranteed first place through ten place finishers. The guarantees begin with a first place prize of $3,000 plus, $1,000 each for the largest smallmouth and largemouth bass. The event pays thru tenth place.

Sponsors included OmegaOne, Payless Drugs, Lynn Layton, Chevrolet, Alabama Farmers Cooperative, First State Loans of Athens, Honda of Decatur, AcuSeal, Inc.

One Comment

  1. Don Gowen says: