The first-ever Catch-A-Dream Celebrity Bass Classic, a new fundraiser initiative, made headway on Saturday, February 26—raising a gross total of $40,852 for Catch-A-Dream kids to go on spectacular fishing and hunting trips across the country.
The event was held at The Waters in Pike Road, Alabama and drew a crowd of hundreds to cheer as kids raised their trophies in the air.
Catch-A-Dream is an organization dedicated to providing once-in-a-lifetime trips to children with terminal illnesses that love to hunt and fish. The kids get to enjoy being in the outdoors for a on the trips—fishing for Mahi-Mahi in Louisiana, hunting giant whitetail in Missouri, chasing after bull elk in New Mexico, and, most importantly, getting a break from treatments to enjoy just being a kid with their family, all expenses paid.
Tony Graydon, the organizer of the inaugural Catch-A-Dream Celebrity Bass Classic, had no previous involvement with the organization, but he felt a tug on his heart to help in any way he could.
Graydon says, “A few years ago, I was watching an episode of Drury Outdoors Dream Season, and every season they do a feature on Catch-A-Dream. While watching it, it just really got my heart moving in the direction to get involved and help raise some money for Catch-A-Dream. I started praying about it, and I knew we had a neighborhood here in Alabama with an incredible fishing resource. I pitched the idea to Marty Brunson three years ago. After Covid settled down we decided we were ready for the event and started planning middle of Summer 2021.”
Dr. Marty Brunson, the CEO of Catch-A-Dream, said the idea came out of “the wild, blue yonder.”
He then goes on to say, “We were excited, honored, and humbled that some total strangers in Montgomery, Alabama wanted to help.”
And help they did. Tony recruited local underprivileged kids and kids with disabilities to come fish in the tournament and have a good time. He also recruited guides from the local high school fishing team to help point the anglers in the right direction around the lake. Graydon was also put in touch with Zach and Mary Phillips of Country Outdoors, who immediately set to recruiting Nashville country music singers to fish in the tournament as celebrities.
After three years of ideas and delay after delay from Covid, everything was finally coming together.
On the Friday night before the tournament, a steak dinner fundraiser was accompanied by Nashville country music singers performing, singers like Sweet Tea Trio, Mo Pitney, Adam Hood, and Dillon Carmichael.
A silent auction, filled with paintings, one painting even done by a Catch-A-Dream kid, and other donated items, raised $6,200 while live music was enjoyed.
As the night drew to a close, celebrities, guides, and local kids were matched together for the tournament, and spirits were high.
The next morning, boats were launched around 7, and the anglers were out and casting their lures, each guide and celebrity doing their best to help their kids catch a big one and win. And big fish were caught right away—Dillon Carmichael with a 5.5 pounder, a guide with a 6 pounder.
Kids with disabilities all fished on the dock, accompanied and helped by their family and celebrity partners. The kids couldn’t have had a better time—the fish were biting and the sun was peeking through the clouds, turning a February Saturday into a beautiful day.
By the time noon rolled around and it was time for the weigh-in, everyone had had a great time reeling in big bass and crappie around the lake and at the dock. One kid even caught a catfish, but, rightfully so, wasn't keen to touch it. Smiles were abundant, boiled peanuts were cooking, and the stage was being set up for the awards ceremony.
Boats were pulled in and prepped to be pulled behind trucks for the ceremony and everyone was gathered in to the front of the stage.
To an enthusiastic crowd of a few hundred, the kids each rode in on their respective boats with their celebrity partner. The crowd cheered each kid on as they weighed their catches, just like the pros.
Graydon says, “The guides, the local high school and college anglers, the weigh-in that made the kids feel special, like they had just won a major bass tournament. Seeing the celebrities connect with the kids—it was all a really special experience.”
The winning kids held the trophies high over their heads, grins stretching from ear to ear as the crowd cheered.
The day wrapped with hot barbecue, laughs, and high-fives all around.
The tournament was nothing short of a success. Mossy Oak is proud to have been a part of an event that not only raised funds for terminal children, but also brought a smile to every person involved. Which is really what fishing is all about in the end—quality time and happy memories to last a lifetime.
For more information on Catch-A-Dream's programs and initiatives, visit catchadream.org.