Hooked on Hardwater pairs professionals with boys for day of fishing
When Craig Oyler lined up professional fishermen for the first Club for Boys Hooked on Hardwater five years ago, he was hoping enough pros would say yes to make it worthwhile. “Our goal was 40 pros and 40 boys, and we were able to get 37,” he said. “I figured if it was a positive experience, we would have more.”
And he was right. The fifth annual event is scheduled for Saturday, February 24. There are 60 pros lined up and there’s a waiting list of pros who wish to participate. Fourteen states and Canada will be represented. “We’re capped out this year,” he said. “I easily could have 70 or 80 pros.”
Sponsored fishermen come from all over the United States, meet the boys at the Club the night before the event to get acquainted, and then spend the next day fishing with their boy on a local lake. The day ends with a buffet-style fundraising dinner, raffles and a live and silent auction.
The banquet has 4 raffles this year. They vary from a camping package, ice fishing equipment, all the way to two guns, a 270 Browning A-Bolt3 and a Ruger 10-22. The live auction items range from limited edition ice fishing rods to fishing trips to Canada, Minnesota and Iowa.
This year, the banquet will be held at 4:00 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Rapid City – Rushmore Plaza. Tickets are $20 and available at the Club for Boys, located at 320 N 4th Street, and the Rooster until the afternoon of Friday, February 23.
This year, boys and their pro fishermen will fish at Deerfield Lake, a location that has given them great success in the past. One year, the boys caught and released upward of 3,000 fish. “It was insane,” Oyler said, laughing. “Some caught their first fish and their 100th fish that day.”
While much of what they reel in are perch, a couple boys have caught lake trout, including a 32” lake trout last year. The day of fishing is relaxed, Oyler said, mainly because the boys have met their fishermen the night before. “They pair up, take a tour, eat dinner together and every year there’s usually dodgeball so the pros are sore the next day,” he said. “The nervous excitement is out of the way, so they can just start fishing.”
Additionally, Oyler said, the pros get to see firsthand the Club and what it is about. “They can see the organization they are helping,” he said.
Oyler said he knows that the event is having a lasting impact by the stories he hears. One young man was able to do the event twice when he was a teenager. After he graduated, he sent both pros he was matched with letters, detailing the positive impact they had on his life. “He told them it encouraged him to want to do better,” he said, including enlisting in the Army and staying out of trouble.”
It’s why, he said, the event continues to be near and dear to his heart. “Ice fishing is a minor part of it,” he said. “Positive attention from a caring adult is what makes this event a huge success.”