By Chesley Oxendine
At first, Harbor RV Park owner Doss Briggs just wanted to feed the nationally-acclaimed fisherman staying on his campgrounds, but the idea evolved into a Thursday-night meet and greet with some of the country’s top anglers.
People crowded into Simple Simon’s Pizza on South Lee Street to sit and eat with the fishermen before climbing into the assortment of fishing boats parked outside.
“This is just my way of thanking them,” Briggs said. “This is a great opportunity to meet some great guys.”
Briggs’ 9-year-old son Ethan said the boats were his favorite part.
“This looks really cool,” he said as he took a seat at the vessel’s helm. “I want to go fishing in this.”
The fishermen, all members of the Professional Angler’s Association were in town for the last leg of the Bass Pro Shops PAA Tournament Series in Muskogee.
“People don’t give these guys enough credit,” Doss said. “I work for a living, some people write for a living, they fish for a living. They work long days, going out with the sun up and coming in after it’s down.”
They travel all over the country too — fisherman Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala. said he hasn’t been home in over a month.
“Fishing is just something I’ve been doing since I was a kid,” he said. “I get to do it and survive.”
Having his wife and son with him didn’t hurt either, Kennedy said.
“Overall, I really enjoy this kind of stuff,” he said. “I get to travel with my family. We have our RV, our jeep and our boat, and I get to go fishing every day. I’m living the dream.”
The angler said he was grateful for the pizza as well.
“This place is really good, and it was nice of Doss to do this for us,” he said. “This was a fun event.”
Texas’ Harold Allen said these events were pretty frequent while anglers were on the road.
“I love these kind of meet and greets,” he said. “You meet a lot of wonderful people, and the food was great here.”
Allen, a professional fisherman since 1977, said fishing proved a “unique” vocation.
“It’s one that very few people see a lot of success in,” Allen said. “It’s a unique sport, because in no other contest do you encounter so many variables.”
He said he enjoyed the “solo” aspect of fishing more than anything else.
“There’s no team to back you up,” Allen said. “Just you and nature.”
While the 35-year veteran had been through the Fort Gibson area before, he said, this year marked his debut on the Arkansas River.
“I’ve fished all over Missouri and in Grand Lake,” Allen said. “This will be the first time I’ve fished the Arkansas. I did all right today. I’m looking forward to the rest of the week.”
PAA President Dave Mansue also anticipated a fun week, and said the Simple Simon’s meal was a good start.
“These guys are fishing heroes, as strange as that might sound to some people,” he said. “It’s great for people to come out and get autographs and talk to some of these guys in a relaxed environment.”
Mansue wanted to thank Doss Briggs for the food and hospitality.
“This was very nice,” he said. “It’s always a good thing to mix with the community, wherever you land, and this was a great way to do that.”
By Chesley Oxendine
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