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CATCH Ministries Benefits from Bass Pro Donation

The East Ridge Bass Pro Outpost donated 153 fishing rods and 237 fishing reels to FishDayton.com and CATCH Ministries on Thursday as part of the nationwide 'Gone Fishing' campaign. (l-r) Dennis Tumlin, FishDayton.com; Jarron Ritchie, East Bass Pro General Manager; Keith Gombash, Vice President CATCH Ministries. (Photo: Richard Simms)

There will be a lot of happy kids in Southeast Tennessee in the coming days and months when they get to use the fishing rods donated by the Bass Pro Outpost in East Ridge Thursday.

Events Manager Trisha Wells said the store donated 153 fishing rods and 237 fishing reels to FishDayton.com and CATCH Ministries. It is part of a nationwide campaign by Bass Pro.

"This is a great day for the nation, not just our area," said Jarron Ritchie, the local Bass Pro General Manager. "Nationally there's been more than 40,000 rods & reels being donated out of all the Bass Pro Shops. We've done this for several years and I think we're up over 250,000 rods & reels donated as a company."

The effort is part of Gone Fishing, a nationwide movement that aims to introduce the sport to families everywhere through donations, nonprofit partnerships and free catch-and-release ponds at Bass Pro Shops locations across North America on June 10-11 and 17-18.

Keith Gombash was on hand at the East Ridge Bass Pro Thursday to accept the donation on behalf of CATCH (Christian Anglers Together Can Help)

"We use fishing as a tool to reach those with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We take the Gospel to ponds, lakes and rivers in an attempt to reach people that wouldn’t consider attending a traditional church service," said Gombash. "This [donation] is huge. We don't have people knocking on our door. We have to pursue support. We couldn't even begin to match this donation. I don't know if you've noticed but these are not your little Zebco 202's. These are very nice, top-of-the line fishing rods and reels... and a lot of them."

The rods and reels were donated by area fishermen during a special February Bass Pro promotional campaign . Anyone who donated a gently-used fishing rod or reel received a discount on brand new Bass Pro merchandise.

Ritchie said obviously some participants had personal gain in mind, but many donated out of the goodness of their hearts.

"We've got some rods & reels donated that still have the price tags on them that people brought in simply to get in the hands of kids who need them," said Ritchie.

Gombash said, "Some will be used for local kids fishing derbies we puton, some will be donated to area high school bass fishing teams and we'll provide some to a mentorship program with Boys & Girls Clubs."

FishDayton.com partnered with CATCH Ministries.

Dennis Tumlin, who heads up the FishDayton marketing campaign said, "When I saw the quality of the rods and reels that were donated I smiled. There are some kids on some bass fishing teams that are going to get a great upgrade or there are actually some kids that don't have their own equipment. This stuff is going to go to a great home."

There are a variety of free activities and special giveaways taking place in all Bass Pro Shops locations across the U.S., including in East Ridge, during Gone Fishing geared for first-time and avid anglers alike. Family-friendly activities are taking place on consecutive June weekends (June 10-11, June 17-18) including:

-- Free Catch-And-Release Ponds: Kids are invited to experience the excitement of fishing at in-store catch-and-release ponds and receive a “first fish certificate” to commemorate their big accomplishment. Free photo downloads of their first fish are also available. (Noon – 4 p.m.)*

-- Free Gone Fishing Introductory Guide: Learn the fundamentals and get tips on best local fishing spots with this family-friendly, informative guide. Available while supplies last.

-- Free Fishing Seminars: In-store fishing seminars offer kids and families basic fishing information and tips to make for an enjoyable experience.

-- Free Gone Fishing Door Hanger: The first 100 catch-and-release pond anglers per location each day will receive a commemorative Gone Fishing door hanger perfect for letting parents, siblings, teachers and friends know a fishing adventure is in progress.

-- Video Game Trade-Ins: Bring in a video game and receive $5 off a new youth starter rod and reel combo $19.99 or more. Collected video games will be donated to the AMVETS Association.**

Anglers of all ages and skill levels are encouraged to join the movement by posting a selfie with a fish to social media using the hashtag #gonefishing, and pledge to take someone fishing.

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