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Analissa Merrill wins the 2006 WalMart All America Fishing Challenge in Jenks Oklahoma

Analissa Merrill is the daughter of Bill and Jeanette Merrill, granddaughter of Harold W. and LaRae Merrill, and great-granddaughter of George “Delbert” and Anna (Souhrada) Merrill

The first-ever Wal-Mart Kids All-American Fishing Challenge presented by Zebco was won in grand style as Analissa Merrill and her pro-angler teammate, Todd Huckabee, used the final Fishing Challenge to vault over five other teams to claim the championship. Six teams of two, made up of the Kids All-American Fishing Team Ambassadors and six of professional bass fishing’s top touring anglers, competed in three fishing related challenges including the timed Casting Accuracy Challenge and Casting Golf Challenge held Saturday, August 19 and the Fishing Challenge held on Sunday, August 20.

Merrill & Huckabee Capture Inaugural KAAF Challenge Crown Fishing Challenge strategy vaults Zebco team from last to first!

The Wal-Mart Kids All-American Fishing Challenge presented by Zebco is the capstone reward experience for those young anglers selected to the Kids All-American Fishing Team Ambassador program. Each member received airfare and hotel for themselves and a guardian to attend and participate in the Challenge. The weekend opened with a recognition reception held in their honor.

Analissa Merrill was asked by Daniel Johnson from Hooked on Fishing International (HOFI) to participate in the 2006 Walmart All American Fishing Challenge. This privilege was part of becoming an Inaugural All American Fishing Kid Ambassador for 2005. The Weekend started Friday with a trip to Jenks, OK. Analissa and her family were invited to visit the Oklahoma Aquarium for a behind the scenes tour of shark tanks, sea turtles and other fish not yet seen by the public, with a formal dinner thanking the six KAAF Team Members from across the nation.

Saturday morning at breakfast at the motel, Analissa gave each team member tee shirts with a map of Washington on the front and pointed to where we lived along with a fishing club patch (a gift from the club). Analissa gave a Tee Shirt and her patch to Todd Huckabee.

All met at the Walmart parking lot, where each team member was paired up with their Professional Angler to form a team. The six teams participating in the inaugural Wal-Mart Kids All-American Fishing Challenge presented by Zebco were:

Team Castrol
Ambassador: Sean Cleland – Naples, FL
Pro Angler: Carl Svebek – Siloam Springs, AR

Team Fujifilm
Ambassador: C.J. Barnhill – DeQueen, AR
Pro Angler: Randy Blaukat – Lamar, MO

Team Keebler
Ambassador: Alyssa Meyer – Secaucus, NJ
Pro Angler: Mark Goines – Shady Point, OK

Team Kelloggs
Ambassador: Jonny Schultz – West Bend, WI
Pro Angler: Sam Newby – Pocola, OK

Team Wal-Mart
Ambassador: Ian Richmond – Riverside, OH
Pro Angler: George Cochran – Hot Springs, AR

Team Zebco
Ambassador: Analissa Merrill – Lynwood, WA
Pro Angler: Todd Huckabee – Oklahoma City, OK

The first event was the Casting Accuracy Challenge, the Zebco Team made only 40 points, casting lures into rings on the ground. Placing them in 6th place (last).  The second event was the Casting Golf Challenge the team including Analissa and her Pro did better but still trailing the other teams and staying in sixth place. With all hopes of winning fading away, Analissa was heard saying, "I came here to meet the other members and have fun." So, she started meeting the other kids and family members.

Sunday was the start of a new day and time to start a new strategy. For today they were to fish in the Zebco pond near the Oklahoma Aquarium. (The pond was about the size or smaller than Jennings Park in Marysville, WA.) The scoring was measured as follows: bass 100 points (very few bass in the pond) catfish 100 points and blue gills 25 points. Every team checked out the pond and decided how they wanted to fish. Some went for the catfish; others the bass while Analissa and Todd hit the dock for the blue gills.

Everyone started catching fish for some it was easier that others.

After the event we went to the first annual Catfish festival at the

Aquarium. Since our hotel was the Best Western right next to the aquarium, this was easy. The sun was a little warm around 103 degrees. That night the thunder and lightning put on quite a little show for us until the rain came pouring down luckily it was time to call it a day.

Team Zebco started the final day in last place as they struggled early in the first day’s two challenges. Team Zebco used a strategy of focusing on bluegill and sunfish, which were worth the fewest points but the easiest to catch. Their haul of 44 sunfish easily outpaced the other teams and made up for their first-day struggles.

This is when the team in last place (Team Zebco) stepped up to the front. Analissa and her Pro partner Todd stood quietly while they announced their final score of 1540 POINTS.

Analissa Merrill and Todd Huckabee, win the event. From sixth place to first place everyone was shocked. With a big applause they received the trophy. Analissa had a little problem lifting the trophy at first then, with the help of her pro angler, she raised it over her head and smiled.

In addition to participating in the Kids All-American Fishing Challenge, each Ambassador received a $5,000 U.S. savings bond, trophy and pro-angler style team shirt.