Big turnout and fundraising at annual fishing tournament

Published 9:55 pm Saturday, June 2, 2018

Around 200 people packed Johnson’s Gardens Saturday morning for another year of fishing, bidding and good company to raise money for local Scouts and remember a beloved member of the Suffolk community.

The Broken Oar Foundation’s 2018 Bass Fishing Tournament and Auction had about 100 competitors this year, the biggest turnout yet for the annual tournament, according to Jett Johnson, president of the Broken Oar Foundation and co-organizer for the event.

This is the sixth year for the tournament, and it’s steadily grown through friends and social media.

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“Every year it just gets bigger and bigger, and we just really appreciate the support,” said Councilman Tim Johnson.

Competitors in the catch-and-release bass tournament were judged based on the cumulative weight of their two heaviest fish caught. Bobby Kinsey won first place in the adult category with a cumulative weight of 8 pounds and 1 ounce, while Trenton Taylor won for youth ages 12 and younger with 4 pounds and 6 ounces.

“It was just a lot of fun,” said Bradleigh Duman, 14, who won third place among adults with 5 pounds and 3 ounces. “It’s always exciting when you get a fish.”

The silent auction featured more than 30 items such as handcrafted art, gift baskets, hand-painted benches and a private plane ride. Guests bid on items as they enjoyed free hot dogs, burgers, chips and more prepared by the Suffolk Lions Club.

The Johnsons first began holding the event in memory of their departed Thomas J. O’Connor IV, who died in May 2013 at the age of 36. O’Connor was a proud Lion and an Eagle Scout in Suffolk’s Boy Scout Troop 1, following the tradition set by other men in his family.

“He was all about the Scouts, being outdoors and fishing,” said O’Connor’s mother, Helen Johnson.

His memory brings people back each and every year, including Kinsey, one of O’Connor’s friends and coworkers.

“It’s a great event, and they’re making a lot of money for the Boy Scouts,” he said before giving a good portion of his first-place prize money back to the family. “I’m just happy to be back.”

The Broken Oar Foundation helps local Boy Scout families pay for summer camps, uniforms and other expenses. The Johnsons raised a little more than $8,000 on Saturday, boosting the amount raised to date in the last eight years to more than $80,000, according to Jett Johnson.

The family donated $500 each to Boy Scout Troops 1, 30, 73, 25, 16 and 911 on Saturday. Jett Johnson said the goal is to raise $100,000 by 2020 to achieve sustainability and make sure Scouts have what they need in the years to come.

He said the event started as a memorial for his brother but has blossomed into something even bigger.

“I think he would be extremely proud with what we’ve done with this,” he said.