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Bryson’s 6.47-pound fish was smaller than previous year’s winners, but it was enough to put him in the number one spot early on and keep him there. He caught it about 7 a.m.
“It was slow after 8 o’clock,” he said.
This year’s tournament got off to a bit of a slow start, as well. Most of the participants did not register until Friday.
“We thought we would have a low turnout, but yesterday they packed in,” tournament director Mike Herron Sr. said. “We had over 270. At one point, I didn’t think we’d have 150.”
That’s still lower than usual for this tournament. The highest number ever was 410, and they average about 350 or so a year, Herron said. He said the lake level, which is about 6 feet below normal, may have been of some concern, leading to the last-minute rush.
“Fifteen, 20 years ago, they’d all wait until the last day to enter,” he said. “The last few years, they haven’t been that way.”
The top five rounded out with Ricky Henry earning second place, Josh Risinger coming in third, Clay Cunningham landing fourth, and Michael Allen coming in fifth.
Pave-Tek earned third place as a team with a collective weight of 15.53 pounds. Hayter Engineering came in second with 15.71 pounds after a coin toss since first-place team Drake No. 1 also caught 15.71 pounds of fish.
This year saw an oddity in the “special catch,” which goes to the angler who catches the bass closest to 4 pounds without going over. Gary Reynolds and Trevor Martin decided to split the $400 prize after they both brought in fish weighing 3.99 pounds.
The consolation prize, which is drawn from entry forms, went to Kevin Porterfield after 17 other names of people who had already left were drawn. The prize is a guided fishing trip.
Other winners included:
The annual event started in 1988 and has been a spring staple for Lamar County ever since. The tournament is held at Pat Mayse Lake with the assistance and cooperation of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Until his death in 1998, Denver Pyle — known best for his role as “Uncle Jesse” in “The Dukes of Hazzard” — attended the event every year. His wife, Tippi, continues to attend. She helped hand out the prizes Saturday.
Pyle asked that all net proceeds from the tournament go directly to benefit children of the county with special needs. Now in its 27th year, Uncle Jesse’s Big Bass Classic has raised about $400,000 for local children’s charities, such as Special Olympics, Boys & Girls Club, Shoes for Children, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Lamar County and the Police Athletic League.
The organization’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. The tournament gives out more than $30,000 a year in prizes, all of which are donated by local sponsors. In fact, the donors upped their donations this year.