Fishing tournament sets new record for attendance
By Travis Dockery
Editor 389 Country
It was the proverbial "chamber of commerce day" on Lake Chatuge Saturday, April 30 for the third installment of the "Casting for Athletics" bass tournament. The tournament is held to raise funds for the Hayesville Middle School athletic department.
The tournament started in 2019, but was forced to skip 2020 due to COVID-19. Last year's tournament was hindered by the gas shortage. Tournament organizer and HMS athletic director Tammy Dills was happy to have somewhat normal conditions this year.
According to Dills, 88 boats signed up to compete in this year's tournament. So many boats in fact, all parking spots at the Ledford's Chapel boat ramp were full which required some teams to put their boats in, drive their trucks and trailers to the Ledford's Chapel parking lot and be shuttled back to the boat ramp. Other teams launched at other ramps and drove their boats to the launch site. All boats were inspected before launch to ensure fairness.
Launch time was at 7 a.m. and the anglers had until 4 p.m. to cover the waters of Lake Chatuge in search of five lunkers. As the anglers returned, they were greeted with hotdogs, chips and drinks prepared by HMS staff and volunteers.
At the weigh-in, the top 15 teams were awarded cash prizes along with biggest fish winner,
biggest spotted bass and smallest fish. The total purse was more than $5,000. Greg and Blake Wright were tournament winners with more than 18 pounds of fish in their bag.
However, the crowd that gathered for the weigh-in didn't leave when the final trophy was given out as dozens of door prizes were still to be given out. For nearly an hour, Dills pulled winning tickets out of a bucket for the prizes that included custom fire rings, a Green Egg grill and an entire setup from Garmin Fishing Electronics.
"When I started this thing I didn't know anything about bass fishing, but my friend Perry Graves did and jumped right in and helped. " said Dills with a chuckle. "Now I know a little bit more about fishing and a lot more about what it takes to put this all together. There are so many people who help with this and I can't thank them enough. From the volunteers to all of the sponsors, it's really amazing."
Clay County Schools superintendent Dale Cole was on hand and addressed the crowd, thanking them for their attendance and support of Hayesville Middle School. Cole also praised Dills for her commitment to HMS and its students and for her work in organizing the tournament.
The Wrights might have taken home the top prize and the first place trophy, but the real winners are the Yellow Jacket athletes who will benefit most from the tournament.
(Total funds raised were unknown at time of writing.)