ESSEX — Gabriel Riggs of Stevensville had so much fun fishing with his dad Todd in the Back River Restoration Committee Rockfish Tournament last year that this year he invited his best friend Wyatt Offutt of Grasonville and Wyatt’s father Brian Offutt to join them.

In the 2019 BRRC Tournament, Gabriel took first place in the youth angler division with a 36 5/8 inch striper weighing in at almost 15 pounds. The Riggs’ boat Bait Me took first place in the tournament.

This year, the Bait Me, captained by Tood Riggs, was competing against 95 other boats on Saturday, Sept. 12. It was Wyatt’s first fishing tournament.

“Mother Nature didn’t cooperate with us on Saturday as the chop was brutal, so we fished limited areas weather permitting for the boys’ safety,” Todd Riggs said.

Gabriel and Wyatt endured rough conditions all the way up until the last hour before the tournament closed and never lost hope, he said. Suddenly, the rods went down hard, and “Gabriel immediately told Wyatt to take the rod and reel!”

Each boy pulled in a nearly 30” rockfish.

“We immediately raced to the scales through the rough conditions, shaking every screw out of the boat to make it back before 3 p.m. closure,” Riggs said.

Thirteen-year-old Wyatt Offutt won first place in the youth division with a fish measuring 29 3/4 inches.

“The boys worked hard for this moment to finally fish a tournament together, demonstrating grit and going with your gut,” Riggs said. “Their excitement was truly addicting.”

Fishing is integrity, hard work ethic, patience, grit, camaraderie, education, giving back and no excuses, he added.

Riggs said he was proud of Wyatt for sticking with them through the challenging conditions and of his son for sharing the experience with his pal.

Established in 2009, the Back River Restoration Committee Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring the health of tidal the portion of the Back River watershed.

The river is naturally rebounding with a little help from Mother Nature and the continual upgrades of the waste water treatment facility. In 2011, Back River was one of only two areas marked as “improved” by the Chesapeake Bay Program’s report card.

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