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Bulloch History with Roger Allen - Statesboro holds first fishing rodeo in 1956
roger allen
Roger Allen

    Ever since America's colonies were founded, fishing has been both a means of survival and . America's greatest writers, such as Samuel Langhorne Clemens, writing as none other than Mark Twain, have immortalized fishing as America's favorite past-time.
    As early as the 1920s, communities began holding local fishing competitions, both freshwater and saltwater. It wasn't long before fishing rodeos became so popular that they even eclipsed the horse rodeo in some regions of the country.
    It wasn't until April 28, 1956, that Statesboro's own first fishing rodeo took place. It was held at Robbins Lake, north of Statesboro on U.S. Highway 80, and was sponsored by the Robbins Packing Company and the Statesboro Recreation Department.
    The contest was limited to boys between the ages of 8 and 15 who had to register for the event at the recreation department building on Fair Road. When the gates to Robbins Pond opened on April 28, 140 boys were waiting to fish.
    Robbins Packing Company family members, including Marion Robbins himself, were there to kick off the event at 10 a.m. The company grilled hot dogs for all those in attendance.
    The rules were simple: The boys must use their own poles, hooks and lines. Prizes were awarded for many categories, including biggest fish, smallest fish, first caught and most caught. There was even a prize for the first turtle caught.
    The winners were announced after the rodeo ended at 1 p.m. The prize for the winner in each category was a season pass to Robbins Pond — worth $6, not anything to sneeze at for a child in those days — good for 120 days of swimming and fishing.
    Eight-year-old Charles Lawrence caught the largest bass, and 11-year-old Danny Robertson caught the largest bream. Eleven-year-old Johnny Vickery caught the smallest fish of all, while 14-year-old Wendell Waters caught the first fish of the rodeo.
    Nine-year-old Bobby Sherrod came up with the largest haul overall, with 10 bream on his string, and in addition to his season pass, Sherrod took home a Wilson baseball glove, courtesy of the College Pharmacy in Statesboro.
    As the first rodeo was such a success, on April 20, 1957, the second annual fishing rodeo was held again at Robbins Pond. It was reported that more than 250 young anglers were in attendance.
    Ten-year-old Bennie Cannon caught the first fish of the rodeo and won a season pass, while Grant Tillman's smallest fish netted him a 13-pound Robbins ham, courtesy of Otis' Suprette, in addition to a season pass.
    John Barksdale and James Roberts both caught the same-sized catfish, earning them season passes, and 11-year-old Don Lanier caught the largest bream and was awarded a new Wilson baseball and glove from College Pharmacy in Statesboro and a season pass.
    Seven-year-old Jimmie Mullis caught a 2 1/2 pound bass, by far the biggest fish of the day. For his catch, Mullis took home both a season pass and a new rod and reel, courtesy of Stubbs Hardware Company of Savannah.
    Finally, Roger Harris caught the most fish of anyone in the rodeo, for which he took home a new pair of Little League baseball shoes from J.L Hodges store in downtown Statesboro and a season pass.

    Roger Allen is a local lover of history. He provides a brief look at the area's historical past. Email Roger at rwasr1953@gmail.com.

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