More Than Just a Catfish Club
by Ron Presley
Making dreams come true
The Arkansas Area Catfish Hunters (AACH) include a large dose of community service in their activities. They do it through their Challenged Outdoorsman of America Chapter (COA). Since 2013 they have used family members, volunteers and club members to carry disabled and challenge youth, adults, and veterans, fishing and hunting.
While their activities include people of all ages, they have a special affection for sharing the great outdoors with the kids.
“Every year we hold a fishing derby for our challenged youth,” said Robert Tallman, AACH and COA representative. “I’m talking about the kids with special needs and disabilities. Our main focus of course is on the kids, but we also use this time to get the family involved.”
The program reaches around 100 to150 kids a year with the hope of increasing that number in the future. They want the special day to be one where volunteers and family members can focus on the challenged child only—a day just for them.
“We started a new program just last year,” reported Tallman. “It is a dream fishing trip for one special needs child.”
One successful dream trip included a child named Jared. He is pictured in the photo holding the big catfish.
“Jared loves to fish,” offered Tallman. “He had always dreamed of catching a big catfish. We made it happen. His family was treated to a weekend in West Helena. Jared was taken out on his big adventure to seek out that big catfish he always dreamed about.”
AACH members Mike King and Tallman carried Jared out on the Mississippi River and Jared got his wish.
“About 2 hours into the trip we found the fish,” recalled Tallman. “Jared’s first fish was a whopping 21-pound blue cat. He followed that with a few others around 10 pounds. Jared told me this was a day that he will never forget and his family was almost in tears they were so happy.”
COA Arkansas will be holding this event for a special needs child every year going forward. Also, with the help of their community sponsors they plan to create and award two $500.00 scholarships to two special needs youth. Their families can use this to help in schooling or medical bills for their special needs youth.
The History of AACH and COA
The Arkansas chapter of COA has an interesting history. It is further evidence of the positive influence catfishermen can have on the world. It only took two men to get the COA Arkansas Chapter started, but it takes an army of volunteers to continue the good work.
“In 2011 a good friend of mine from Texarkana, Dearil Jackson Sr. and I was talking,” explained Robert Tallman. “We always loved taking about catfishing. One day he says to me, ‘I see all your photos of your fishing trip, but they are always photos of someone else holding fish. Why is that?’”
Tallman went on to explain that he just enjoyed taking others out and putting them on fish. Jackson then offered to send him some videos on what he did in his spare time. The videos turned out to be shot on trips where Jackson, his family, and some volunteers took disabled and challenge youth, adults, and veterans on fishing and hunting excursions.
When Tallman inquired about the videos he discovered that Jackson ran an organization called the Challenged Outdoorsmen of America (COA). Jackson suggested to Tallman that he would be a perfect candidate to start an Arkansas chapter.
“I told him I would be honored,” said Tallman. “So, in 2012 The Challenged Outdoorsmen of America Arkansas Chapter formed. I got a few board members to help me out and we were on our way.”
The COA Arkansas Chapter held their first Casting for a Cause Tournament in 2013 at Murray Park in Little Rock Arkansas and have continued ever since. The 2018 benefit tournament will be held on September 15.