EWC truly a family affair

Jason and Diedrick Smith were the first team to take to the stage Saturday afternoon at the annual Emo Walleye Classic. Their second-day haul was just a nudge above three pounds, bringing them to 5.39 on the weekend—enough for a seemingly unremarkable 42nd-place finish overall. Not that one would know—given the reaction from the crowd and emcee Chip Leer. Diedrick took to the stage and, despite being rather reserved, drew some of the heartiest cheers at the tournament. All because little Diedrick Smith is just eight years old. It’s a testament to how the EWC is such a family affair. Dad Jason certainly didn’t bring Diedrick in because he thought it would be the best way to win the tournament. “It’s great. You get to bond with just one kid at a time instead of all three of ’em jumping on you like this one,” the elder Smith said while balancing his five-year-old son, Maverick. He’s got another child between those two, who wants to participate in the EWC next year. “That’s what the kids want, yeah. Three kids all a year apart.” Diedrick is still shy and speaks to strangers mostly one word at a time. Does he fish a lot? “No.” Does he like fishing with his father? “Yeah.” And what does he like about the tournament? “I like catching fish.” Fair enough. Fishing with his children is something Jason chose when his mother, Sadie, teamed up with his cousin, Jeannie Sheppard, for 2007. And he said theirs isn’t even a big fishing family. The Smiths aren’t alone. This year was something of a banner year for family participation in the EWC, with a record 10 teams eligible for the Elmer Haglin Award, presented to the top parent/child team—no matter that in five years, Frank and Corey Curtis are the only team to win the award thus far. The field gets thicker by the year. A quick rundown of the standings exhibits many familiar names—in fact, in a field of 130 participants, there only are 99 different last names. And, like the Smiths, many relations took to opposing boats for the tournament. “The Trembaths are probably the best example of that because Kevin and Andrea are married,” said EWC stage and marketing director Lincoln Dunn. “They both fish with family members, but they fish against each other.” Dunn added the family act is one of his favourite parts of the EWC. “I think it’s cool, and I think it’s one of the things that keeps our tournament a little bit unique,” he reasoned. Colleen Vennechenko, angler services director for the EWC, agrees about keeping the sport in the family. She mentioned she has a soft spot for the Elmer Haglin Award. “I think it’s great, you know, because there’s a lot of fathers and daughters, fathers and sons, and it’s nice to see that,” she remarked. “These days, not a lot of people do family things together.” Truer words are rarely spoken.

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