2021 Fish the Chick

Jenny Nevans and Tonya Connell model the new Fish the Chick visors as they prepare for the September 4th tournament.

Looking for a way to close out the summer on Labor Day weekend? How about a fun activity that you can enjoy with another angler, with your entire family, or with the whole community?

Here’s a good suggestion — United Way’s Fish the Chick tournament. Stay in Rhea County, spend the day on the lake reeling in your catch, or take your family to watch the afternoon weigh-in at the boat dock.

I met recently with Tonya Connell, Executive Director of Rhea County United Way and Angie Drake, Resources Coordinator to discuss the history of the fishing tournament and the plans for next weekend’s contest. Connell was quick to talk about how very supportive the community has been in providing sponsorships for the event.

I left our meeting thinking, “It is so inspiring to see how community leaders sponsor fun events that actually serve to help others.”

In this case anglers may be helping partners learn new fishing techniques or may be physically helping them pull heavy wiggling fish into the boat.

However, another type of helping was the motivating factor in starting the tournament, now in its 10th year. Christine Ralph, previous United Way Director, had identified reoccurring unmet needs of women in Rhea County. Since a primary mission of United Way is to contribute to greater family stability, there was a need to take a serious look at ways that United Way could help local women, often single mothers, in order to promote their stability.

The needs identified by United Way officials varied greatly; examples include providing assistance with unexpected car repairs, buying a bus ticket to a drug rehab center, assisting with an overdue bill, providing emergency help to a woman to get her out of domestic abuse, and funding overnight housing.

The question loomed — how to finance an appropriate response to these and other needs. It was the early days of the popularity of fishing tournaments in Dayton. A small group of women came up with the idea of hosting a bass tournament with proceeds being used to meet local women’s needs. Jenny Nevans, local fishing enthusiast, chaired the first fishing tournament and has continued as a tournament volunteer every year since.

Throughout the years, local anglers have shown their support by participating in the tournament that has netted both fish and dollars. Over $40,000 has been used for addressing women’s needs. “Funds are not a monthly crutch for the same recipient, instead funds help many different women with unexpected or emergency expenses,” Connell said. Tournament proceeds are designated in United Way’s financial accounting as Fish the Chick funds and are allocated on a case-by-case basis.

This year’s tournament is next Saturday, Sept. 4. There is still time to register at www.fishthechick.com or at the United Way office on 4th Avenue. If you have questions about the tournament, call Tonya or Angie at (423) 775-5633. A Friday night pre-tournament registration event will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. at Monkey Town Restaurant.

Local angler Steve Trotter has been encouraging others to register for the event by reminding them that “helping local people in need while having fun is the best of both worlds, and you might win $1,000 doing it!”

At Fish the Chick the locals are the stars. There are incentives for participants with the big winner receiving $1,000. There are also door prizes, a spa packet for a lady angler, a youth angler prize, a big fish pot and new for the 10th anniversary is 10 $100 dollar bills for the angler who catches a 10-pound bass. Everybody’s a winner at this tournament because the community will leave with the satisfaction of knowing that we are responding to local needs. I love living in a place where we can identify our own needs and then take action to meet them.

One of my favorite scriptures is I John 3:18 paraphrased in my own words, “When it comes to showing love to others, don’t just talk about it, do something about it.” Sept. 4 is a perfect time to live out those words. Hope to see you at Fish the Chick!