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Weekly 150: Steve McCadams (Part II)

Survivor and Humanitarian

Posted 8/5/20

As a fisherman, Steve is best known for his forte in crappie. In 1996, he and his fishing partner, Jim Perry, won the world championship Crappiethon Classic. The top prize provided each man with …

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Weekly 150: Steve McCadams (Part II)

Survivor and Humanitarian


As a fisherman, Steve is best known for his forte in crappie. In 1996, he and his fishing partner, Jim Perry, won the world championship Crappiethon Classic. The top prize provided each man with $56,500 including a boat and motor.

“It’s nice to know you have that feather in your cap,” he stated about the win. He added the pursuit was a “test of the best.” Steve explained the Crappie USA tournament series starts with a one-day event across the country, the top contestants then compete in regional competitions after which the top 20 move on to the Classic.

“You’re fishing against two-man teams representing thousands of fishermen along the way.”

In 1998, Steve’s outdoor lifestyle was slowed as he had a major health scare. He was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, the cancer was discovered when he noticed swelling of two lymph nodes in his groin. He presumed it was just a hernia.

Through treatment and regular visits to his oncologist, Steve was on the mend, but in 2000, as Steve was set to serve as grand marshal at the 47th Annual World’s Biggest Fish Fry there was another lump. Doctors urged him to go into surgery since he agreed to the obligations of grand marshal, the surgery was postponed a week.

“Before the crowd cleared good, I was already through my pre-op,” Steve explained. The swelling proved to be a non-malignant cyst. Following a possible return of cancer scare and diagnosis of hypertension, Steve was ready to return to his lifestyle since he was granted an “extended warranty.”

Steve said for cancer survivors a recurrence is, “always in your mind. But I’ve got a lot of encouragement.” The research completed by organizations like the American Cancer Society and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, which is largely privately funded, help those in going through various treatments.

With the care he received, he vowed that “if the Good Lord will let me live I’ll do something to help somebody else.”

Just before his scare in 2000, he began planning the Fishing Rodeo at Carroll Lake with the plan to “introduce some kids back to fishing” while giving something back to the American Cancer Society. The inaugural event hosted approximately 507 children with each receiving a prize.

“We put some smiles on a lot of faces,” he said. The Annual Steve McCadams Casting for a Cure Each year McCadams teams up with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the big event is fast approaching. More than 3,900 kids from five states have been introduced to fishing since the rodeo’s conception.

From the help of the TWRA and numerous volunteers and donations, the festivity is one of the shining points on the McKenzie calendar.

Steve said of the event, “With the help of donors who open their hearts and pocketbooks each year we send each youngster home with a prize and fond memory. I know we’ve made a positive impression on these kids over the years and in doing so we helped fight cancer at the same time,” continued McCadams, who grew up fishing Carroll Lake and participated in the rodeos back in the day.

Another important element in his life is fellowship with other cancer survivors. Steve said in a 2000 interview, “When somebody who’s had it, has been through it, tells you that you can survive it with love and with the help of your friends, that’s a good pill to take.”

He showed concern in how others might delay treatment by ignoring symptoms because of fear or loss of hope. Knowing the depression and emotional upheavals are part of dealing with cancer and the recovery process, he has helped at the Ronald McDonald House and Gilda’s House.

“I’m going to do what I can do to brighten their day,” he said about his trips to the centers to autograph hats for children. At points, Steve has provided hunting and fishing trips to patients.

With over 45 years of guiding experience, Steve has slowed down some, “Every year the sun’s a little hotter, the rain’s a little wetter, and the cold’s a little colder. I used to fish 30-40 days in a row. When you’re in your early to mid-20’s you can do that. The older you get, the less you can battle the elements.”

Years of success and notoriety haven’t inflated Steve’s ego. When asked about meeting and guiding the elite and famous personalities, he speaks with a great sense of humility. He said people “all put their britches on one leg at a time.” He does hold endearing memories of fishing and huntings with people like Hank Williams, Jr., Jerry Reed, Grandpa Jones, Porter Wagoner, Little Jimmy Dickens, and Mike Snider (who he knew before his Grand Ole Opry days).

“I’ve met a lot of nice people; some of the greatest people. I’ve been in it so long that kids who used to sit on my lap are bringing their kids now. I think, ‘I remember when his daddy was sitting on my lap to catch a fish.’”

If you define success by the number of lives you have touched for the better, then Steve McCadams may be one of the most successful people who had their start in McKenzie.


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