Lyric Hardy, 12, of Tarkington took first place in the youth division of the Big Bass Tour on Lake Conroe over the weekend by weighing in a 4.67-pound bass she caught in the shallow waters near Cagle Park on Saturday. She is the daughter of Josh Holden and Deana Stoker Holden of Tarkington.
Lyric, who fishes in tournaments with her grandfather, Rev. Charles Stoker, pastor of Hi-Way Tabernacle Assembly of God Church in Tarkington, took home a cash prize of $1,000, which she plans to use to build a clubhouse. In her own words, the clubhouse will be a place where she and her friends “can sit and talk about hunting, fishing and Jesus.”
She caught the bass using a Diawo rod and reel combination with a Segar 20-pound braid line and a Grande blue-black bass Snake’O lure. When she weighed the fish in on Saturday, it was the biggest fish of the day in the junior competition, netting her a $500 prize.
On Sunday, church took priority for the pair, so they first attended Sunday school, where Stoker delivered his sermon, and then headed back to Lake Conroe to wait for the results. It was a nail-biter as they scanned the shore looking for junior competitors carrying their fish to the weigh-in, said Stoker.
“When we got back over there, the tournament director told us that she was still the leader. As we hadn’t eaten breakfast or anything, we ordered food and watched the weigh-ins. Several youths weighed in fish but nothing that was as big as her fish. With about 10 minutes left in the tournament weigh-ins on Sunday, a teen came in with a big fish. My granddaughter started to panic,” Stoker said. “His fish weighed in at 4.5 pounds. She just barely beat it. I was so proud.”
The prize for winning the overall tourney fetched her another $500, bringing her overall winnings to $1,000.
Since she was a young child, Lyric has had an interest in fishing.
“She started with the Legacy Tour when she was 6 years old. That’s the junior Christian club that promotes fishing among children. The club’s goal is to give kids the desire to fish, to get them out there and get involved with fishing,” Stoker said.
Stoker explained that his goal in taking her fishing was to enjoy a hobby together and to encourage her participation in a sport that would not compromise her health as she suffers from a type of rheumatoid arthritis that requires chemotherapy to prevent blindness and other conditions.
“Some of the fishing tournaments she has fished in came on days when she had just completed her chemo. She would still want to get up and go compete. I think it took her mind off of her physical problems. That’s why we love it so much. It keeps her going and moving,” he said. “With the medication that she is on, her immune system is low, so in any other sport, she would run the risk of catching things from others. With fishing, it’s safer because it’s just us in a boat.”
Stoker said that Lyric’s winning fish was likely not her biggest catch of the day. However, the other fish got away before they could land it in the boat. Seeing his granddaughter disheartened, Stoker gave her encouragement.
“I told her to shake it off, to retie and let’s move on. A few minutes later, she said, ‘Grandpa, I have another one.’ I looked back at her and her rod was completely bent over. I hurried to the back of the boat and saw the fish come up out of the water and shake its head,” Stoker said. “She kept reeling it in. At that moment, there was only one thought in my mind – to get that fish onto the boat. I thought that if I failed this, life for me as a grandpa was over.”
When the boat was finally landed in the bottom of the boat, Lyric sat down and started to cry.
“Grandpa, I really needed this,” she said to him.
Once the fish was safely in the boat’s live well, they rushed to the weigh-in station about 20 miles away from Cagle Park.
Stoker has won his own share of fishing tournaments but says he is especially proud of this win.
“None of them compares with watching her win this tournament. I’m so proud of her. It is a major win for any angler, especially a 12-year-old,” he said.