Get ‘Hooked for Life’: Kids fishing tournament comes to Sports Complex

HARLINGEN – David Mendez, the late founder of the Brownsville non-profit Hooked for Life Kids Gone Fish’n, personified the familiar proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

After all, his legacy has ensured thousands of children and their families enjoy recreational fishing – most of them for the very first time.

And now, after nine successful years in Brownsville and three in Port Isabel, the Hooked for Life Kid Fish Tournament is coming to the Harlingen Sports Complex Saturday from 7 to 10 a.m.

The free event is open to children 16 years and younger, and the first 500 to register will get a free fishing rod and a goodie bag.

Those fishing rods will be put to good use, with 650 pounds of live catfish being released into the pond of the sports complex for the tournament.

“The idea is to get kids outdoors and introduce them to fishing as entertainment, being that we’re so close to plenty of bodies of water to go fish,” said Hooked for Life Kids Gone Fish’n Vice-President Doro Garcia.

Manny Vela, CEO of Valley Baptist Health System, who donated back to the non-profit part of the proceeds of a boat he won at a raffle in Brownsville’s event, suggested bringing the tournament to Harlingen, according to Garcia.

“We decided to start small, get our feet wet,” Garcia said, explaining the Harlingen tournament will not include the traditional catfish and BBQ cook-off that usually follows the children’s tournament. “We feel it will be a good introduction to what Hooked for Life is, what our organization is about, and get us a little exposure in Harlingen to hopefully next year grow it to a full event similar to what we do in Brownsville.”

Local vendors will be at the tournament passing out drinks, fruit and other giveaways, Garcia said.

Registration is required and can be done online at or the morning of the tournament.

Garcia said about 70 children had already registered and encouraged families to attend.

“Fishing is a form of spending good family time together and creating experiences that will be memorable to the kids,” he said. “We welcome the community to come out, to get hooked for life.”

If you go

WHAT: Hooked for Life Kid Fish Tournament

WHEN: Saturday, June 22 from 7 to 10 a.m.

WHERE: Harlingen Sports Complex, 3139 Wilson Road

COST: Free. First 500 to register will also get a free fishing rod and a goodie bag.

REGISTRATION: or in person at the event