Cabela’s King Kat and Crappie USA Kids Rodeos

If you teach your kids to fish and hunt, you won’t have to hunt your kids.


Nature has a way of communicating peace, comfort and knowledge if you take the time to listen. Most kids are naturally attracted to the outdoors and they have much to learn from it. Some even say that kids can learn more from Mother Nature than they can from books, if they get the opportunity.

It was Henry David Thoreau that said, “I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.” Given the digital world we live in today, pointing kids in the direction of the outdoors, and letting them experience it, is a task worth pursuing.

Cabela’s King Kat Tournament Trail rodeos date back to 1992 when Darrell Van Vactor started the rodeo while working for Johnson Fishing in the Crappiethon promotions (Crappiethon was a crappie tournament trail that predates the Crappie USA trail). It was a project of passion and required a good amount of “selling” to bring others to the fold.

“My bosses at that time failed to see the importance of doing it,” recalled Van Vactor. “Nevertheless, they allowed me to solicit products from some of our national sponsors to give out to the youth who attended the rodeos. The next year one of the other Crappiethon directors added the kids programs to his events and they just grew after that.”

“We actually held one kids event on Grand Lake of the Cherokees in OK where we had over 1200 youth bused out to the event by the school system. That was a long day!!!!! Now, you can’t even get the school principals to announce the event on the bulletin boards or any other way, they are so afraid of privacy laws and the like.”

“Having come from a background in law enforcement I felt like we could make a difference if we could get kids out of the house and into the outdoors,” continued Van Vactor. “We wanted to do something to encourage them in Nature. Many youth are living in single parent homes and don’t have someone to help them learn the basics of fishing, yet most young people have the urge to go fishing.”

The rodeos not only give youth a chance to experience the outdoors, it gives the organizers a chance to teach them about fishing. “With our rodeos, we have a chance to teach youngsters the basics,” continued Van Vactor. “Even if it is just how to tie a knot or set a bobber it might make the difference later in life when they decide to continue the sport or not.”

“… the future of fishing lies in the hands of our youth …”

“I had a saying I used in the old Law enforcement days,” offered Van Vactor. “If you teach your kids to fish and hunt, you won’t have to hunt your kids. That saying holds true more than one would think.”


A Recent Event

The various tournament trails established their kids rodeos to give our youth that chance to experience the outdoors in the communities where their tournaments are held. The rodeos are free to all kids up to age 12. “They just have to bring a rod and reel plus bait,” explained King Kat tournament director, Jeremy Coe.

The King Kat trail recently held a rodeo at the Bob Evans Farm Pond near Rio Grande, OH. The accompanying photos are from that event. “This is where Bob Evans started,” reported Coe. “We had a beautiful valley to enjoy and the perfect place to have a kids fishing rodeo. There were about 50 kids that came out to fish, and many fish were caught.”

“I must say I was a little jealous. It’s bluegill and redear season at home on KY Lake and those kids were catching larger and more fish then I’ve been able to catch. It was a great turnout and great fishing. I can’t think of a better place for the kids to experience what Mother Nature has to offer.”

“The purpose of these rodeos are to get the kids outdoors and get them interested in fishing,” said Coe. “When they sign up we give them a goody bag for coming. We give prizes to the kids who catch the most fish in two different age groups, from 0-7 and 8-12 years of age.”



What Van Vactor started those many years ago continues today in both the Crappie and Catfish trails he administers, with an added bonus. In 1997, they added a scholarship component to the rodeos.

All the kids that fish in the rodeos, as well as the kids, that are under 16, who fish in their tournaments, have their name placed in a drawing for a scholarship. Six $1,000 scholarships are drawn at the end of the year. “We even had one young lady come out to Bob Evans this weekend who had won one of those scholarships in previous years,” offered Coe.

“To date we have awarded over $342,000.00 in college scholarships to youth that fish our rodeos or fish in our Crappie USA and King Kat tournaments,” reported Van Vactor.

“We believe the future of fishing lies in the hands of our youth,” concluded Van Vactor. “We are proud to promote youth events in every way we can.”

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