The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette fish story contest came down to a photo finish with drama that no other competition can match. Here’s how the judging played out.
We tapped our own neighborhood here at Beaver Lake to recruit our trio of judges. My good neighbor Joy Schillinger lives down the road, as does James Cox, the catfish king of Beaver Lake. My cat, T.C., rounded out the panel serving as chief fish story magistrate.
Cox and Schillinger read through the stack of entries and each judge picked their favorite. Schillinger was smitten with the story by Tom Fletscher of Springdale about an ocean fish that gave birth in a bucket kept by Fletscher while he fished.
Meanwhile, Cox’s favorite was the story by Bob Britzke, who lives on the White River near Eureka Springs. Britzke’s saga is about an expensive lure a fish in Canada made off with, but Britzke eventually got the lure back.
Cox liked that story because, he said, it’s so true. He knows the more expensive the lure, the quicker an angler loses it. Same goes with sunglasses and pocket knives.
Now we have our two finalists, Britzke and Fletscher. Here’s where the drama unfolds.
We place the two stories side by side out on the deck here at fish-story central. An equal number of cat treats is placed in the center of each story. Whichever story T.C. goes to is the winner.
Naturally, T.C. is in the throes of a 19-hour power nap in the dirty clothes hamper at judging time. A shake of the treats bag takes care of that. Before you can say litter box, she’s prances through the living room and makes her entrance on the deck, tail held high.
Halfway across the deck, she’s headed straight for Fletscher’s story. But wait, just like a curve ball, she veers toward Britzke’s story. Tadah! And the winner is Bob Britzke, 2019 fish story champion.
Not only does Britzke get to bask in the fame this prestigious contest brings, he wins the grand prize: a fine selection of lures almost guaranteed to catch the big ones on our lakes and streams.
Britzke donated his prize back to the contest so the lures can be doled out to deserving young anglers who might need some tackle.
“I’ve got more lures than I know what to do with,” the lifelong fisherman said, but he was tickled to win.
A thousand thanks to Mitch and Scherry Glenn of Garfield, owners of Pico lures and angler extraordinaire Keith Brashers of Rogers,for donating so many lures that our prize bag bulges with baits.
Thanks to Cox and Schillinger who pored over the stories and did the tough duty of picking just one. And thanks to everyone who entered the contest.
Now’s the time to be out fishing, while the catching is hot, to gather material for next year’s contests. All anglers know the crazy things that can happen when that hook hits the water.
Good luck with your fishing.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.