A year ago, unlike several before it, planning for the annual Havre de Grace St. Baldrick’s head-shaving event wasn’t happening due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was 2021 when we had to cancel our regular event. Events were canceled all across the country and the foundation took a gigantic hit,” Grant Morris said.
Morris, a yearly participant, wasn’t happy with the cancellation, so he put his thinking cap on, searching for a way to still raise funds for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which targets childhood cancers.
Morris, after a suggestion from friend Joe Weaver, came up with a fishing tournament. Though small, the tournament did what Morris was planning, raised funds in a tough year. In 2021, there were 15 competitors and 12 sponsors, and it brought a donation of a little more than $2,000.
Fast forward to 2022, Morris and a few others are geared up and ready to put on another fishing tournament this summer. “My team is Tony Veres, Mark Rohde, Matthew Gillespie and my mom, Cheryl O’Malley,” Morris said.
The 2022 St. Baldrick’s Heroes Fishing Tournament, presented by Instant History Tattoo, is set for June 25 with push off from Tydings Park at 4:30 a.m. June 25 is an all-day ordeal with on-site registration starting around 3 a.m.
“These guys will start fishing at 5:30 a.m., 3 p.m. is lines out,” Morris said.
The tournament requires anglers to fish from a kayak.
“Fishing a kayak tourney, people don’t realize how grueling it can be, particularly in the dead of summer when you’ve got 12 hours of sunlight,” Morris said.
There are actually two tournaments anglers can compete in. Anglers can fish for largemouth bass in one tourney or for northern snakehead fish in the other.
“The anglers can buy into one for $50 or they can enter both for $75,” Morris said. “Each tournament has its own championship prize. No secret, a custom fishing rod is involved for every tournament champion.
“The way it is actually set up, we’re running two tournaments side-by-side. The model this year is 100% of the payouts for the tournament will be sponsor provided,” Morris said. “That means the entry fees will all go straight to the foundation. I simplified it all this year, they’re gonna actually make a direct donation to the event page and that’s how I’m going to take registration this year.”
Morris, 38, has 40 sponsors this year, compared to 12 last year.
“We were able to put together a pretty good tournament,” Morris said. “These folks that place first, second and third in these tournament legs are going to win some nice prize packs. Right now it looks like I’m going to have prizes for pretty much everybody who gets involved.”
The tournaments are CPR events, which means catch, photo and release each fish caught from a kayak. The angler must also measure the fish. The winners in each tournament will be determined based on overall length totals of three caught, measured and released fish.
One super lucky angler can also win a kayak.
“Each of the tournaments will have its own champion, but there is also a grand champion prize. You have to be registered for both tournaments, the angler with the longest combined length of one largemouth bass and one northern snakehead will win the grand champion prize, a fully rigged, fishing kayak,” Morris said. “It’s something to show up for, if for no other reason, it’s worth fishing. These tournaments are about the competition.”
Morris offered a sponsorship spot to have a business name included in the title for a certain donation and that donation was a kayak. “It was plain and simple, I wanted for someone else to buy us a kayak,” Morris said.
Morris had a deal and sponsor for the kayak bought at Autumn Sky Outfitters, but it fell through when sponsor backed out and it left Morris on the hook for $800.
“I connected with Tony Veres, who’s helping put the tournament together,” Morris said. “Tony and wife Kayli stepped up to do sponsorship.”
There is no limit on number of tournament participants, but Morris did cap the sponsors at 40. “Just because they didn’t stop coming. I actually had to say no,” he said. “I’m like listen, if you want make a donation to the foundation, a direct donation, I’d love for you to do that. I can’t keep track of anymore, I have to put out advertisements for each of these sponsors. I’m just a diesel mechanic, man, trying to figure all this out as I go.”
Registrants usually don’t register until the week before the tournament, due mainly to weather reports.
“There’s a lot that goes into planning a tournament day, especially for some of these more scientific anglers, I guess you could say,” Morris said.
The after-party begins at 4 p.m. at Coakley’s Pub. Raffles will be started online, probably right after the St. Baldrick’s main event is finished. Winners are to be drawn night of fishing tourney.
“Food specials, drink specials, Coakley’s is going to be giving back to the foundation a percentage of the profits,” Morris said.
The main Havre de Grace St. Baldrick’s event is scheduled for Saturday at the La Banque at the Seaplane Base.
The event, organized by Billy Berg, is set to begin at noon, with head shaving to start at 12:30 p.m. and continue to 6 p.m. Berg says currently there are 41 registered for shaves, a number down from a 100 or so. On average, 10 more looking for a shave may show on event day.
Morris will be shaving again this year, a seventh time, and he’s got a couple of fishing trips to raffle off.
One package includes a guided striper fishing trip, full tackle compliment and a custom fishing rod from Southern Girl Sportfishing and the other is offered up with a trip on the Salty Siren. These raffles will be won at Saturday’s main event. Morris says he will be available for ticket sales at the event.
“I want to ramp up on the energy that our main event draws and then continue to drive the energy up afterward,” Morris says of the main event. “Try to carry it through May and that’s when we’ll really start to push the registration.”