Ron Labatzky will never forget the kindness of a very kind man.
It was the type of gesture Jim Robey was known for. Mr. Robey, the late and great outdoor writer for the Dayton Journal Herald and Dayton Daily News, died last November, but he left behind a legacy filled with stories that are remembered by people all over the Miami Valley.
And every once in a while they bring out a Robey story to share with folks around them.
Labatzky decided to do everyone else one better – he named a fishing tournament after Jim Robey. The annual Downtown Dayton Fishing Tournament will be known as the Jim Robey Downtown Fishing Safari.
“Jim was my friend,” said Labatzky, retired police chief at Sinclair College. “When he died, I tried to think of something to do that people would remember him.”
Labatzky recalled his first encounter with the man the late sports editor Ritter Collett used to call, “Our dandy little outdoor writer.”
“I took my son (David) on one of Jim’s Journal Herald Fishing Safaris at Rocky Fork Lake. He was eight years old and loved to fish,” Labatzky said. “He was fishing with his Zebco, but he wanted to try a cast on my baitcaster.
“Well, OK, he made a cast out to the old stump in the bay across from the restaurant there at Rocky Fork. All of a sudden he got a hit on a 21-inch musky and reeled it in. Everyone was talking about it at lunch and we all said he was sure to have the biggest fish of the tournament.”
But it didn’t turn out that way. Calvin Pyle, Ohio’s Mr. Musky, came in with a bigger musky and won.
“Of course my son was devastated,” Labatzky said.
“The next day when we picked up the paper, Jim had written all about the tournament, listing the biggest fish, etc. And then he took the time to tell everyone all about this young fisherman who caught a 21-inch musky. My son was beaming.”
That was 38 years ago.
“I will never forget the kindness Jim showed my son,” Labatzky said.
The tournament will be sponsored by Fisherman’s Headquarters and We Care Arts. It will be held from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 22, rain or shine. It will be bank fishing downtown on the Great Miami River.
There is an entry fee of $15 for adults or $5 for kids under 16. Half of the entry fees will go to We Care Arts and the other half will be paid out in prizes.
To participate, pick up an application at Fisherman’s Headquarters (Sixth and Keowee) or contact Labatzky by e-mail at email@example.com or phone at (937) 689-1021.
Labatzky started the downtown tournament in 1996 after he was walking across a bridge one day and looked down to see all kinds of fish swimming around.
“I thought this would be a great place for a fishing tournament and it would be nice to do something for the downtown area,” said Labatzky, who likes to call himself “The Fishin’ Cop.”
And it’s now even nicer to remember Jim Robey, one of Dayton’s greatest and kindest fishermen, while he’s doing it.