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Bait Box hosts 17th annual Esperanza Woodring Memorial Cast Net Rodeo

By Staff | Nov 3, 2010

Esperanza Woodring. (Photographs by Charlie McCullough)

Tomorrow, the Bait Box is inviting the community out for their annual cast net rodeo, a 17-year tradition founded by Bait Box owner Ralph Woodring in honor of his mother, Esperanza Woodring.

“My mom was a very good cast-netter. She made her living for many years with a cast net catching fish to sell or catching bait, and she used to make and mend her own cast nets. That’s one of the reasons we do the rodeo in her honor. She also purchased the property and set up The Bait Box, and that’s why we host the Cast Net Rodeo here,” Woodring said.

This year, the Cast Net Rodeo will be a different — there will be no registration fee, but it’s kids only, which Woodring said is another form of tribute to Esperanza.

“My mom loved kids, particularly little kids. She was a babysitter for many island kids over the years and she cared about them so much. It?s a part of her legacy.”

Contestants ages 6-16 will be divided into three age groups to make sure everyone has a fair chance.

From 9 to 10 a.m., participants will get hands-on tutorials about proper cast net throwing technique, and the competition begins at 10:30. But don’t let a lack of cast-netting experience keep you from entering the contest.

“You’d be surprised – some of the first timers win the special prizes,” Woodring said.

The cast net is an ancient tool used by cultures around the world to catch fish, but at the Cast Net Rodeo, things are a little different. After donning an authentic cowboy hat, each participant will throw their cast net to capture a moving target — usually bouncing tennis balls.

And while there will be winners in each division, each child will receive a prize just for participating.

“It’s not as much of a contest as it is having a good time. We want to be sure that everybody has a good time,” Woodring said.

Rylee Owens gets suited up for last year’s competition. (Photograph by Carol Orr Hartman)

“My mom and dad, my uncles, my half-brother and all of my children are cast-netters. My kids all come for the rodeo and to help teach the kids. It will kind of be like a family reunion for us,” Woodring said.

Which is ideal, because Woodring said that the Cast Net Rodeo is definitely a family event.

“There’s no drinking allowed, but we’ll have hot dogs and sausages and other things to drink. The event should last about four or five hours, depending on how many kids come out. We hope to have at least 40 or so kids from around the island and from Fort Myers – and if you know any kids between 6 and 16 we?d sure like to have them out to the rodeo,” Woodring said.

All proceeds from the 17th annual Esperanza Woodring Memorial Cast Net Rodeo will go to benefit the Sanibel-Captiva Chapter of START (Solutions to Avoid Red Tide).

For more information, or to pre-register, stop by The Bait Box at 1041 Periwinkle Way or call