It all started in 1992 when the Blue Jays won the World Series. That was when Gord Roberts bought his first truck and started Blue Jay Trucking. Deciding he needed a change, Gord took over Saddleback Sport and Marine and gave it the Blue Jay name.
In the winter of 2004, the Blue Knuckle Derby started, and has continued on, even this year after Gord’s untimely death.
A spot found on Gord’s lung last May was diagnosed as pneumonia by the radiologist. Less than three weeks later, Gord Roberts passed away.
Friends and family rallied in Nakusp and organized this year’s Blue Knuckle Derby as a memorial to the man who was well-liked and respected not only in town but wherever he went.
“It’s huge, the support you get from a small town. You can tell the impact he had here,” said his wife Tracey Roberts, “People felt they had to keep his memory alive.”
The Derby saw over 120 fishers out on the Upper Arrow Lake, in blizzard conditions on Saturday. It was a testament to the slogan “think you’re tough enough” on the derby posters.
Saturday night it was standing room only when Switchback played for Derby-goers. It was a moment when it seemed the event was coming full circle to Tracey, who remembers that Switchback played there first-ever live performance at the first Blue Knuckle Derby.
After a night packed with music, dancing and visiting, the boats were out on the water in the morning, contending with heavy winds but at least no blowing snow.
Arrow Lakes Search and Rescue got in on the action too, running a practise out on the water on Sunday. Just in case, said Gord Hogaboam, who was happy that the Derby fishers kept themselves safe during the blizzard the day before.
“They’ve got lots of experience,” he said, but he also noted that accidents do happen so it doesn’t hurt to get some practise in on the boat during the derby.
For the most part, boats were far from the marina, busy with their hooks and lines, and some hilarious moments that inevitably will become great memories and even better fishing stories.
In the end, it was Jesse Martin who walked away with the $1,000 prize for an 18-pound Dolly.
“There’s a little bit of karma going on here,” Tracey told the Arrow Lakes News. It was Jesse’s dad Terry Martin who sold Gord Roberts his first logging truck. Not only that, Gord knew every winner, she said, which made it feel like a real community event.
In second place was Greg Cunningham with a 17-pound ten-ounce Dolly, which earned him $600. Larry Aeichele took third and $400 with another Dolly just shy of 14 and a half pounds. They’ll be enjoying fresh fish for a while, and not only the glory of winning, but the cash prizes too.
For all her determination, Gord’s wife Tracey did get choked up when she talked about the Blue Knuckle Derby and what it meant to her and her family. The final weigh-in and awarding of the prizes was filled with memories and laughter more than tears, though. Next year’s tribute will remember Gord Roberts and test the stamina of local fishers and will really be a community event again.