With about 10 minutes left until lines had to come out of the water at the Crosthwait Memorial Fishing Tournament’s On the Wall Children’s Fishing Tournament, 5-year-old Nala Beirbaum was fighting with all her weight along the seawall at Bradenton Yacht Club.
A 31-inch sting ray was on the end of the line, and Beirbaum, one of the youngest competitors in the tournament’s first kids event in more than a decade, had a chance to win if she could get it up onto land.
Heads turned all along the waterfront and a crowd gathered around Beirbaum as she tugged and tugged with her grandfather shouting words of encouragement Saturday.
Although trophies will not officially be awarded for the kids tournament until Sunday afternoon, once Beirbaum got her sting ray on land, there was no more suspense. She will win the first On the Wall Tournament.
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“She reeled it all in by herself,” said Jeni Scheid, a Crosthwait Tournament committee member who organized the children’s tournament.
If the next few years play out the way Scheid hopes, Beirbaum will one day be out on the water competing with one of the inshore boats, which took off earlier Saturday, or even in the offshore division, which began competing Friday. When Scheid joined the Crosthwait committee last year as part of a larger youth movement within the tournament staff, she wanted to find ways to get more young anglers involved.
Bringing back a kids tournament, which she remembered from her youth, was one of the most obvious ideas.
31Length in inches, from tip to tail, of the largest fish caught during the On the Wall Children’s Fishing Tournament at the Crosthwait Memorial Fishing Tournament.
Scheid and the committee built enthusiasm and found sponsors for the return of the kids tournament. Fishermen’s Headquarters in Bradenton provided the bait, tackle and prizes. River Savage Fly Co. designed custom trophies. The winners in each of the two age divisions — 5-8 and 9-12 — won half-day fishing charters for their family provided by Something Catchy Fishing Charters and Highliner Charters in Bradenton
Scheid called Saturday’s kids tournament “the first annual” even as others with the Crosthwait ribbed her that it can’t be an annual event until you know it will come back year after year. Given Saturday’s turnout, Scheid isn’t worried. She was hoping for about 25 kids to compete. Although only 14 were registered before Saturday, 47 competed and they caught 35 fish, mostly catfish.
“We had a way bigger turnout than anticipated,” Scheid said.
We had a way bigger turnout than anticipated.
Jeni Scheid, Crosthwait Memorial Fishing Tournament committee member
The return of a children’s event Saturday joined Friday’s professional competition as changes designed to broaden the Crosthwait’s overall appeal and make the weekend younger, whether its using social media to promote the tournament to a different audience or setting up tournaments for children.
“These are going to be our future anglers that fish the Crosthwait,” Scheid said. “We want to get these kids in their prime getting their love of fishing down and then that way they’re going to provide us the next generation of our Crosthwait anglers.”
34TH CROSTHWAIT TOURNAMENT
What: Offshore, inshore and junior tournaments
Where: Bradenton Yacht Club
Weigh-ins: Junior and inshore divisions, 7 a.m.-1 p.m.; offshore division 7 a.m.-3 p.m.