Jay Yelas is a professional bass angler who has been part of the sport fishing industry for over 20 years. Winning Bassmaster Classic and Angler of the Year titles, Yelas has achieved the pinnacle of success in pro bass circles. His passion for the sport is obvious any time he talks fishing.
Yelas still competes on the FLW Tour, but much of his time now is focused on another passion, the C.A.S.T. for Kids Foundation. This non-profit charity was established to get a variety of children with various special needs out fishing. The organization has also blossomed into a home for taking armed services veterans out fishing as well. Jay is the Executive Director of the foundation, and has been since 2015.
C.A.S.T. for Kids Foundation Executive Director Jay Yelas. (Joel Shangle/BassFIRST)
"I've been associated with C.A.S.T. for Kids for about 13 years," said Yelas. "The founder of the organization, Jim Owens, started it in 1997 and asked me to be a board member. When he retired in 2015, I was asked to become the Executive Director.
"I absolutely love doing this work. It's my third year so far, and I find it to be a really fun challenge. The entire organization works hard to grow so we can reach more people, especially the special needs and disadvantaged children out there.
"When we have an event on a Saturday, and those kids get in a boat, or pick up a fishing rod for the first time, it is amazing. The positive and uplifting impact it has on everyone is something to experience. Some of these kids have never caught a fish before."
Right now, C.A.S.T. for Kids has 6 employees and will have 70 events in 2017. The goal is to have hundreds of events annually and to have them in every state.
Organizational growth isn't the only goal for Yelas.
"I believe our vision to grow our organization nationally will come to pass," said Yelas. "Our foundation is totally apolitical. It is for everyone. We want to share the joy of fishing and create smiles on the faces of those who participate, teaching them the basics of fishing so they can continue fishing with their families and make it a hobby, or a lifelong lifestyle.
"We want all of the participants to feel the positive encouragement, and to hopefully realize if they can come out with us and catch a fish, that many other things in life are possible."