The opportunity to learn from an angler who once was a storied professional tournament fisherman awaits local elementary school students.
Mark Kile, Bassmaster Rookie of the Year and three-time Classic qualifier, is volunteering to teach two Kids Fishing Classes sponsored by the Payson Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department.
Both classes will be held on weekdays during which the Payson district is holding half-day sessions.
From 10 a.m. until noon on April 10, Kile will host students in first- through fourth-grade.
From 1 to 3 p.m., April 22, he’ll guide classes for fifth- through eighth-graders.
Both classes will be held at Green Valley Park.
“Mark, along with another volunteer or two, will instruct our local children in age-appropriate fishing techniques in a fun atmosphere,” said trails and outdoor recreation coordinator Mary McMullen.
“He will also be utilizing loaner fishing rods from the Arizona Game and Fish Department.”
For parents who want to register their children, the best advice from McMullen is to register early because, “class size is limited to ensure participants get hands-on attention.”
The registration fee is $5 and sign-up may be completed at the parks and recreation offices located at Green Valley Park.
For more information, call McMullen at (928) 474-5242, ext. 358.
About the ex-pro
The 42-year-old Kile fished professionally for about 15 years, twice qualifying for what he calls “The Super Bowl of Fishing” — the Bassmaster Classic.
During his career, he pocketed some good-sized payoffs, including several during Citgo Bassmaster pro tour events.
In 2003, Kile was prominently featured during ESPN’s coverage of a tournament being contested at Clear Lake, Calif.
In the final moments of the tournament, Kile is shown 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.
In 2004, he surprised almost everyone by saying that he was stepping away from the East coast tournament trail where bass fishing is a way of life.
In resigning, he accepted a position as regional sales manager for Skeeter Boats, which, he said, would mean a better lifestyle and more time with his wife and family.
But stepping away from the East coast tournament trail didn’t mean the end of his local fishing challenges.
In the summer of 2005, he 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.
Looking back, 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.