If that angler signing autographs 10 a.m. until noon May 10 in the Fish for Bikes booth at the Payson Wildlife Fair looks familiar, it could be because you've seen him on ESPN national television.
He's Mark Kile, who several years ago was one of the Super Six qualifiers on the prestigious Citgo Bass Masters' Tournament trail.
At the Citgo national event, held at Clear Lake, Calif. that year, Kile weighed in a limit of 24 pounds, 13 ounces that represented the largest catch of the day.
In the final moments of the tournament -- in which Kile finished second -- he's shown on television hooking and then losing a lunker that, if caught, would have lifted him to the championship. The runner-up showing earned the Rim angler $40,000 in prize money. A win would have been worth $100,000.
At the time, the second-place finish enhanced Kile's already sterling reputation as one of the finest tournament competitors in the United States.
In the summer of 2004, friends and family of Kile watched in anguish as he narrowly missed making the second-day cut at the 34th Annual Citgo Bassmaster Classic in Charlotte, N.C.
The weigh-in was televised live on ESPN television.
For reasons unknown to Kile, in climactic fashion, he was the final tournament angler to weigh in.
"I kept asking them, ‘Why are you holding me, do you think I've got a lot of fish in there?'" Kile said.
Although Kile didn't make the cut, he picked up a good deal of national air time for his sponsors and grandmother.
After telling ESPN broadcasters his grandmother was in the audience, cameras panned onlookers until they found her.
"She was really excited about that," Kile said.
Kile remembers his outdoor interests being nurtured as a 4-year-old while fishing with his father in a reservoir near his hometown of Picacho.
Later, as a student at Casa Grande High School, his fascination with fishing flourished during frequent trips to Arizona lakes.
After graduation from high school, he enrolled at Central Arizona College with an eye on majoring in wildlife management.
"At CAC, I knew what I wanted to do; I wanted to be able to fish for a living," Kile said.
Sponsored by Yamaha, Skeeter and Bill Luke Dodge while fishing the pro trail, Kile participated in tournaments around the United States. The biggest draw for him and other pros was the southeastern U.S., where bass fishing is one of the most popular outdoor sports.
Kile has also fished most of the West with much of his time on Arizona lakes. The Payson pro is one of the few western fishermen to qualify for the Bass Master Classic.
He has since stepped away from competing on the national circuit and now fishes most western tournaments, including All-Star Bass.
In the summer of 2005, Kile teamed up with his wife, Johnna, to win an All-Star couples tournament at Roosevelt Lake. Only a week later, he joined forces with Buddy Randall to capture an All-Star team tournament also at Roosevelt.
In addition to tournament fishing, Kile is also a former co-owner of the Tackle Box in Tonto Basin and was a frequent speaker during the store's highly popular Outdoor Rendezvous.
School sports physicals set for tomorrow
The Payson School District is offering discounted physical exams from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. May 7 in Wilson Dome.
That will be half-day schedule for PUSD students.
The fee is $10 and the exams are open to any student who will be playing middle school or high school sports during the next school year.
To take advantage of the physicals, students must pick up a physical and parent permission form at the school where they will be playing sports next year.
For example, eighth-graders should pick up forms at the high school and elementary students going to middle school next year should pick up their forms at RCMS.
The student-athletes must bring the completed forms and the $10 fee with them to the physical exams.
For more information, call (928) 474-2233 or (928) 474-4511.