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Joplin fisherman wins Strike King Co-Angler title in first appearance in Major League Fishing

JOPLIN, Mo. — Ever since Joplin’s Kelsey Ray could remember he’s had a fishing rod in hand. But fishing is just a snapshot of what Ray does best.

It’s his escape. It’s a place where the only thing he needs to worry about is being able to get the fish inside the boat.

“Every time you get bit, it’s like, ‘Get in the boat! Get in the boat!” Ray laughs.

“Getting that bite and reeling in that fish, there ain’t nothing like it,” Ray continued. “When I’m on that water, everything goes away. I’m like a free bird so to speak.”

Ray’s whole family has been surrounded by fishing. His cousin fishes on the pro side, and Ray thought why not give it a try himself. A three-day trip down to Brookeland, Tx., later and Ray won his first Major League Fishing event.

“I hate to say it’s beginner’s luck, but I don’t want to say that,” Ray said. “We put in a lot of practice, we put five days of practice in before the tournament and the game plan worked.”

A winning total of 14 bass weighing 36 pounds, 12 ounces earned Ray the Strike King Co-Angler title. From sun up to sun down, Ray says you’re just out there on the water finding what will earn a bite from the fish.

But it’s more to Ray than reeling in and catching fish, it’s the memories. The memories that create those snapshots.

“You’re always going to remember the fishing trip or what you caught, how big the fish, if you didn’t catch fish, you know it doesn’t matter,” Ray added on about what else makes fishing great.

It was a trip of a lifetime that has changed Ray’s life. It’s more than the prize money, or more than winning a brand new boat. It’s fulfilling something he’s dreamed of since he was a kid.

“It still amazes me every time I see that trophy, I’m like, ‘Goodness, that happened,'” Ray said. “I’ve waited all my life to win something like this, and it finally happened. It’s like a dream come true.”

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