HOT SPRINGS – Arkansan Cody Kelley fishes the professional FLW Tour, and while doing so he organizes youth fishing derbies at Tour sites as well as sites for the regional COSTA Tour throughout the country. With the FLW Cup coming to Lake Ouachita on Aug. 10-12, Kelley makes his first return to his home state since January, and he’s bringing the United Fishing Derby home as well, with youths invited to the derby at Hot Springs Family Park on Saturday, Aug. 11. The event is open to anyone 18 and under and any Special Olympics participants of any age.
Preregistration is open by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, and the first 100 registrants receive a goodie bag and a rod-and-reel from the FLW Foundation.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is stocking the pond with catfish the night before the event. After the fishing, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Saturday, everyone is invited to move to the Hot Springs Convention Center for the FLW Expo. Awards for the derby will be presented at 4:45 p.m., including the most fish caught. Participants will be able to weigh their catch and have their photo taken on stage, Kelley said. The FLW pros will be weighing in their Saturday catch beginning at 5 p.m.
Kelley organized the first fishing derby the last time the FLW Cup came to Hot Springs three years ago and has been running about 20 derbies a year around the Tour. He’s not qualified for the FLW Cup this year, so he’ll be on hand for the derby, he said.
It keeps us busy,” he said of running derbies along with fishing the Tour year-round. “Special Olympics is very helpful. We work with community leaders at the sites. And FLW helps us give out the equipment. We have gotten over 150 kids to an event and we take in over 1,000 kids cumulative over the year.”
Kelley encourages participants to preregister to take advantage of the freebies being offered to the early birds, but says that everyone will have fun. Registration will be open Saturday at 8 a.m. An adult or legal guardian/caregiver must accompany all participants and sign a waiver form. Hot Springs Family Park is at 215 Family Park Road.
“It’s always great to see the kids enjoy the day. Someone is always having their first fishing experience or catching their first fish. No pun intended, but we want to get them hooked on fishing.”