April 4, 2014 11:05:25 AM
Mark Clark would love to have the opportunity to go fishing Saturday.
After all, with a chance to earn as much as $1,250 for one fish, who wouldn't want to try their luck on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway?
But as tournament director of the Hooks for Halos Children's Miracle Network Open Big Bass Tournament for the Le Bonheur Children's Hospital, Clark will be too busy weighing in all of the fish Saturday to get a chance to test his fishing skills.
Still, Clark is excited that the second-annual event will attract plenty of fishermen from throughout the area and state who are interested in competing and helping a good cause at the same time.
"Any one bit they get could win them $1,250," said Clark, who is district sales leader in Columbus for Frito Lay, one of the corporate sponsors for the event. "That is pretty good incentive there."
Hosted by the Starkville Walmart, local businesses Performance Marine, The Boat Gallery, Pickensville Marine, Frito Lay, Mitchell Distributing, Better Brands Distributing Co., the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau, Premier Ford, Walmart, Clark Beverage Group, Inc. are serving as sponsors of the fishing tournament, which will begin at safe light Saturday and run until 3 p.m. Clark said the support of the sponsors will mean there will be seven hourly weigh-ins in which fishermen will have three chances to win money. The biggest fish each hour will win $250. The second-biggest fish will be worth $150, and the third-biggest fish will be worth $100. The overall big fish of the day will be worth $1,000. The smallest legal fish of the day will be worth $100.
Fishermen are only permitted to have a five-fish tournament limit at any time. Locking is permitted. Only largemouth, smallmouth, or spotted bass will be weighed in. The fish must be a minimum of 14 inches. Fishermen must cull after catching their fifth fish. After weighing the fish, that fish will be released by the tournament director. The entry fee is $120 and can be paid at the Columbus East Bank Ramp on Saturday morning.
Last year, Clark said the tournament attracted 47 boats and raised $6,200 for Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. The hospital, which opened in 1952, is recognized as one of the nation's best for children.
This year, Clark hopes a better weather forecast will help the event hit a goal of 60-75 boats. If that happens, Clark said it will be realistic to make the tournament an annual event to benefit the hospital.
"Most fishermen love kids of have kids of their own," Clark said. "There are so many opportunities to win Saturday, and we have gotten sponsors to guarantee a payout of $4,600. We're going to give away 23 checks Saturday, so there is a lot of opportunity to win out there."
Clark said fishermen from as far away as Brandon and Philadelphia have signed up for the event. He said the success Columbus has had in playing host to multiple fishing tournaments the past few years should help attract fishermen who want to compete at a time he believes the fish should be biting.
"The fish are getting ready to spawn and should be shallow," said Clark, who said he is a "big" fisherman. "The should be hitting right there for everyone to catch."
Clark said he keeps "threatening" to fish in the event, but he and his crew will be busy behind the scenes with games for the kids and cooking food for the fans and participants to worry about catching fish. A year ago, fish that weighed more than five pounds won each hourly weigh-in. Clark said the biggest fish last year was 5.78 pounds. If that holds true this year, Clark said the fishermen should be in store for a competitive day.
"We know fishing tournament bring in a lot of tax dollars for the city," Clark said. "We want to make it a big enough event where it draws a lot of fishermen from out of town because it is for a great cause. Last year, we had a lot of fun. We're hoping for a really big turnout so we can make it bigger and better for next year."
In addition, Clark said Frito Lay will have a fishing simulator in the parking lot at the Columbus Walmart from noon until 4 p.m. today. He said the simulator will be in a NASCAR trailer.
Silent auction and door prizes will be provided by Scum Frog, Corey Herring Auto, Mossy Oak, Logan's Roadhouse, O'Reilly Auto Parts, NAPA, Clay's Bait and Tackle, K&S Outdoors, Gary's Pawn & Gun, and Sports Center.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.