Bob Wakeman is fishing for old rods and reels.
He wants you to drop off yours so he can refurbish it and give it to a young fisherman when the weather warms up.
"After my last back surgery -- number 8 -- I asked God what he wanted me to do," said Bob, 62, of Dupo. "I have always worked with kids, one way or another. He wants me to give kids a chance to fish."
That's why the retired mechanic sat at his kitchen table on an unseasonably warm afternoon taking apart rusty reels and restringing rods. A train whistle sounded in the distance. Pliers, screwdrivers, WD-40 and a grease breaker were spread out before him.
Bob has arranged with five businesses to collect equipment. He sees each rusted reel or rod as a challenge.
"This one was donated by someone who dropped it off at Ace Hardware (in Columbia)," said Bob, who is confident he can put together what he's taken apart. "There are so many different ones. It takes me an average of 45 minutes to do, depending on what kind. A baitcaster reel takes a lot more time because there's a lot more involved."
"Don't forget to tell her how God blessed the program," his wife Kathy called in from the other room.
"This is amazing," said Bob. "For a while, I had so many extra rods that did not have reels. One day, I asked God to figure out what to do. The next day someone dropped a milk crate of reels at Dupo Marine in a corner for me. God answered my prayers."
Bob, a member of Hope Christian Church in Columbia, will have a kids fishing day June 1 for children from his church and from Washington Park, where the church has a mission. They'll meet about 8 and, with help from parents and friends, go on a fishing outing. He'd like to have a rod and reel, and possibly, a tackle box, for each child.
"It will be something kids can take care of," he said.
Bob has been taking things apart and putting them together ever since he can remember.
"Dad started me out with mechanics," he said. "We worked on cars together. He just got me into it. I just enjoyed it."
Bob grew up in Geneva, west of Chicago, moved to Peoria after serving in the U.S. Army, and worked as a mechanic. He and Kathy met at a roller skating rink where he was teaching kids to skate.
"In '82, the economy was like it is now," said Kathy, a fundraiser for Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. "There was nothing going in Peoria. He lost his job. We had seen in the paper they were looking for people in the St. Louis area. We took a chance."
They packed up their two young sons, a boatload of furniture, a tent and sleeping bags and visited Kathy's sister in Dupo. It was early August, too hot to stay in a tent during the day.
"We had to pile in the car," said Kathy, "and wait outside while Bob filled out an application and went in for an interview. Within two days, Bob had a job and we had this house."
Bob managed auto repair shops and had one of his own, Neighborhood Tire and Auto, on Jefferson in St. Louis. Degenerative disc disease, two heart attacks and other health issues caused him to retire.
Never one to sit still, Bob does volunteer work at his church and organizes an annual car show. In the summer, he gardens and gives away the best of his tomatoes. And he fishes, sometimes with Kathy.
"She usually outfishes me," he said.
"I enjoy just being with him, doing something with him," Kathy said. "He gets all professional with his fancy lures and tackle box. Not me. ... Bob will say, 'Honey, I think you better pull that in.' I will pull that in and there will be a fish on it."
Bob and Kathy have been married 38 years.
"Whatever he has taken up to do, he does 110 percent," she said. "When he's done with them, they look really good."
He has his finished rods and reels lined up beneath the carport.
"This is one of my pride and joys," he said, stepping outside. "It's a closed-face Zebco, the most versatile for kids. It was completely black when I got it. You couldn't tell it was red.
"I take pride in what I do."
Best age to start: "Five or 6," said Bob. "I was 5 or 6 when my dad took me fishing. We took our kids when they were 5 or 6. Both my boys (Chad and Blake). One thing with the oldest son that has stuck with me. He caught the biggest bluegill I have seen anyone catch. What did he do with it? Threw it back. It's not a bass and he is a bass fisherman."
What he likes about it: "The enjoyment going out and seeing what God created, being out with God's gifts. We don't stop long enough to enjoy what God's given us."
Favorite spot: Randolph County Conservation Area.
How oten to change line: "Once a year. You could lose a real good fish very easily."
Favorite rod and reel: "My favorite is the Shakespeare. They're very well made, a good manufacturer. They are what I got my kids started on, never had any trouble with them."
Favorite fish to catch: "Catfish, bass and walleye, in that order," said Bob.
Favorite bait: Bluegill, but Kathy uses worms. "I still catch them," she said, "but Bob has to put the worms on and take the fish off."
Where to take your old rods and reels:
Thrifty Hardware and Home Center, 22 Jerome Lane, Cahokia, 618-337-4286
Ken's Boat and Motor, 1810 S. Main St., Dupo, 618-286-5995
Dupo Marine Center, 900 N. Main St., Dupo, 618-286-5252
Hope Christian Church, 9273 Coachstop Road, Columbia, 618-939-9089
Cottons Ace Hardware, 229 N. Main St., Columbia, 618-281-7226