For the past four years, Cody Miles and his dad, Jason, have put together fishing gear and tackle that would cover just about any lake conditions.
Cody, a senior at Benton Consolidated High School, was well set to continue his success in his final year of high school bass fishing competition.
That was until a trip to compete in a tournament in South Carolina earlier this month.
Although Cody's dad had accompanied him on every tournament trip, this year, the family of his new fishing partner, freshman Laundered Richardson, stepped up to split those duties.
The group set out for a tournament on Lake Hartwell near Anderson, S.C., last month. Everything was smooth sailing. They were checked in at a local hotel. With the gear tucked away in the boat that was parked next to the hotel office near security cameras, Cody and the group left to attend the tournament meeting.
"My husband had packed two large bags of fishing tackle to send with Cody," said his stepmom, Kristina Miles. "While Cody and his partner were at the tournament meeting, someone stole both bags of tackle out of the boat."
Kristina said that Cody has fished everywhere and has never had anything touched until now.
"It has taken him and his dad four years to build up his tackle," she said. The stolen tackle is valued at around $5,000.
"To watch what you've worked so hard to build up be gone in the blink of an eye while you're 12 hours from home, he is devastated and heartbroken," she said.
Apparently, there is some footage of the theft, but Kristina said the local sheriff claimed it "was not clear enough" to make a positive identification of the perpetrator.
"Evidently, the closest security camera was not working," she said.
Kristina said the theft was not just against her stepson, it was also against the community.
"Family, parents and the community have helped the kids," she said, paying for costs of the competitions of what can be an expensive sport. "If it wasn't for our community and me and Jason scrimping and saving, he wouldn't be able to do this."
Cody and Laindree thought they would have to withdraw from the tournament, but another team showed true sportsmanship, stepping up to outfit the pair with enough to allow them to compete.
With the next tournament scheduled for March 27, the Benton community is stepping up to help again.
"Daniel and Dianna Robinson at The Barn Bar kicked it into high gear to help replace what was stolen," said Kristina. "Adrienne Mason from Country Finance also kicked into high gear, donating a Yeti color to be raffled off at the fundraiser"
The Barn Bar in Whittington will host a fish fry and fundraiser on March 23, beginning at 6:30 p.m. until the fish is gone. The Miles family will be donating and frying the fish in appreciation of the community's generosity. Twenty percent of all sales from the Barn Bar will be donated from 3 p.m. until closing. The Yeti raffle drawing will be held at 8 p.m. Tickets are available now.
For more information or to donate, contact The Barn Bar at 618-629-2276.