Last-minute bass nets ‘Kid Pro’ title

With only a few minutes left before the 3 p.m. deadline to return to the Sorting Gap Marina, 11-year-old Angel Nixon and her pro partners, Luc Levesque and Marcel Meloche, decided to try one last spot.
The trio had had a fairly successful day of fishing on Rainy Lake as part of the ninth-annual “Kid Pro” tournament this past Sunday in conjunction with the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship, but were looking for one last big fish to put them over the top.
“Luc said ‘if we get one more, we’ll be right there,’” Nixon recalled.
It was a decision that proved to be fruitful.
Nixon had no sooner cast her line out into the water when she felt a tug. “I saw the lure go down and then it started pulling,” she said.
Judging by the way her rod was bent, everyone in the boat immediately knew she had hooked a big one. Now it was just a matter of getting the fish netted—a responsibility that fell to Levesque.
“I was net boy,” he recalled later that afternoon. I was following the rod back and forth.
“It’s a good thing I have a 21-foot boat because I walked four miles to get the fish in the net,” he joked.
After several tense minutes, Levesque successfully netted the bass and brought it aboard.
The catch was impressive. Nixon had reeled in a 19-inch bass, which she proudly held aloft—posing for pictures before releasing the fish back into the lake.
The trio then rushed back to the Sorting Gap to register their catch—a three-fish total of 12.23 pounds.
The tension then mounted as FFCBC emcee Paul Morrison took to the stage to announce the top three “Kid Pro” winners.
“I thought maybe a second or a third [place finish],” Nixon said when asked if she’d known her weight was going to be enough to win.
Nixon’s modest hopes were exceeded moments later when Morrison announced her as the winner of this year’s event.
Her reaction to the news?
“I was stunned,” she said. “It’s just really delightful.”
But while Nixon was excited, Levesque and Meloche looked like kids on Christmas morning. The pair beamed with pride as they spoke of their young protégé’s accomplishment.
“Her last fish is the one that won the tournament,” Levesque proclaimed, a broad smile etched across his face.
Later, as the trio posed for yet more pictures, Levesque could be heard joking that he and Meloche were going to hide Nixon in their live-well and use her as their secret weapon during the FFCBC, which gets underway tomorrow (June 27).
Nixon narrowly edged out Shelby Holden who, fishing with Dennis and Glenn Smith, reeled in a three-fish total weight of 12.10 pounds. Holden’s total was helped by the largest fish caught during the “Kid Pro”—a five-pound lunker.
Phoebe Ann Firth took third spot with her partners, Bill York and Lorne McNay. They finished with a total weight of 11.93 pounds.
Rounding out the top five of the “Kid Pro,” opened to youngsters aged 10-14, were James McKiel with his partners, Chip Leer and Jeff Gustafson, and Ashley Monture with pros Mike and LeRoy Wilson.
McKiel’s team caught a three-fish total weight of 11.90 pounds while Monture’s boat netted 10.20 pounds of bass.
In addition to the honour of having her name added to the “Kid Pro” tournament trophy, Nixon received a medal, a new fishing rod, and first choice of any one of a number of donated prizes.
Nixon also will have the privilege of returning to the awards presentation ceremony next year, at which point she’ll be given a wood carving resembling one of the fish she caught Sunday.
Carvers will use a photo taken of Nixon’s best fish to create the wooden replica.
Each of the 27 teams were given a disposable camera by tournament organizers prior to departing Sunday morning.
The teams were asked to use the cameras to document any of the fish they caught during the day.
A random draw was held for the rest of the donated prizes following the award presentations for the top three teams.
But the day was not about awards or prizes. Instead, it was a chance for the youngsters to experience fishing in a manner they may never have had otherwise.
Kids like James Brown, who enjoys fishing but doesn’t have the opportunity to go very often.
“I like fishing but I don’t go a lot,” the soft-spoken 10 year-old said.
Although he didn’t catch anything Sunday, Brown said he really enjoyed learning a variety of skills from his pro partners, Keith and Terry Wilson.
Skills like learning how to tie knots, decide which bait to use, and how best to use it.
The tournament also is a chance for the pro anglers to remember why they began fishing in the first place.
Jeff Gustafson and Chip Leer have participated in the tournament each of the past four years and could not imagine not being a part of the fun.
“We’ll always do it,” Leer said. “This is a fun thing and a way for the anglers to give back to the community.”
“They really roll out the red carpet for us,” he added.
“It’s fun to watch someone young show the emotion and excitement,” added Gustafson.