Raymond Victory arrived at Bluffton’s annual trout derby at 8:15 a.m. — much later than usual, but still nearly six hours before the 2 p.m. starter’s gun would sound. He was carrying two poles — one with which to fish, the other to lay on the ground to stake off his three-foot section on
the quarry’s bank.
As the derby began, Victory announced to those nearby: “That guy (the number one tagged trout) is in this area. One of us will catch him.” Victory was joking, but just 15 minutes later, that joke turned into reality.
Victory felt a catch as his pole bent a bit, so reeled in his line. He’d left his reading glasses at home, but thought he saw the number “1” on the tag. To be certain, he asked a guy sitting nearby to read the number. “Congratulations,” said the other fisherman.
Knowing that the prize for his catch could increase over the next few hours — it’s based on a raffle — Victory waited another hour before reporting in with his tag. His prize amounted to more than $1,000. But for Victory, that was just money. As far as he was concerned, he was celebrating much more.
A native of Bluffton, Victory has been fishing the derby since childhood. He and his brothers would sell bait in the morning and when they sold out, they’d head over to fish. For him, it was a way to spend the day with his brothers — especially his older brother, Jim.
In November, Jim asked Victory to take him shopping to buy a new pole. They returned home with a Shakespeare Ugly Stik, a favorite of the Victorys because of the pole’s flexible bend.
Sadly, Jim died in January. His wife gave the pole to Victory, knowing it would be in good hands. It is the pole with which Victory caught his prizewinning trout.
“Jim was with me today,” says Victory, a smile crossing his face.
After catching the trout, he continued to fish but purely for the pleasure of the sport. In fact, a little boy fishing nearby kept tossing his line over Victory’s. His mother apologized repeatedly for her son’s ineptness.
“I said, ‘Don’t worry about it. Nothing’s going to ruin my day,” said Victory. Later, he realized the boy was not catching any fish, so Victory quit fishing to give him a better chance.
Asked what he intended to do with his prizewinner, Victory laughed. When he caught it, he pulled out the tag and threw the fish right back into the water. “It was still alive and looked pretty good.”