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Uncle Jesse's Big Bass Classic set for May 3

Kelly Meredith shows off the fish that won the tournament in 2013.
Kelly Meredith shows off the fish that won the tournament in 2013.

The 27th annual Uncle Jesse’s Big Bass Classic hits Pat Mayse Lake on May 3.

Last year’s tournament raised more than $16,000 to donate to children’s charities in Lamar County, but that’s only part of the picture.

“We paid out $32,000 worth of prizes. We never talk about that. In other tournaments, it’s all they talk about,” tournament director Mike Herron Sr. said. “It’s money we’re putting in the community. Somebody’s getting $5,000.”

First prize is $5,000, with more prizes paid for second through 20th place. A $400 “special catch” prize will be awarded for the closest to 4 pounds without going over. There will also be consolation prizes. Tickets are $1 each for a raffle for a custom angle rod and reel, plus a separate “early bird” drawing for all entries received by April 25.

The entry fee is $50 for individuals, $225 for a four-man team. Forms can be turned in to the Lamar County Chamber of Commerce, 8 West Plaza. For those who prefer to wait until the event, registration will be held May 2 until 5 p.m. at the chamber and until 7 p.m. at Brannon’s Bass Shop in Powderly.

Contestants may leave from any launch site on Pat Mayse Lake, but all fishing must be done between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m. on the day of the tournament. Bank fishing is also allowed. All fish must be caught on artificial bait by casting.

Weigh-in begins at noon and runs until 3 p.m. at Sanders Cove, Loop C. No fish under 14 inches will be weighed. As this is a big bass tournament, only large mouth, small mouth and Kentucky spotted bass (black bass) will be weighed.

Contestants must have a valid Texas Fishing License. Any participants 16 or younger must be accompanied by a parent or adult with written permission

For the non-anglers who want to attend, there will be a band on the shore and concession stand available.

“It’s going down exactly the same as it always has,” Herron said. “We don’t make a fortune like they do at other charities, but we bring in a steady income.”

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. Pyle asked that all net proceeds from the tournament go directly to benefit children of the county with special needs.

Tournament proceeds are handled through Denver Pyle’s Children’s Charities, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Funding has gone to a variety of organizations and causes, including Special Olympics, Boys & Girls Club, Shoes For Children, Big Brothers/Big Sisters Of Lamar County and the Police Athletic League.

Uncle Jesse’s Big Bass Classic is quite efficient in that regard, according to Herron, who is also a member of the charity’s board. Many fishing tournaments use the entry fees for the payouts, he said. The tournament costs about 5 percent to put on, and most of the event’s prizes are donated.

Other communities have tried to duplicate the bass classic’s success, and even approached the charity for advice, but so far, none have managed it, Herron said.

“I don’t know why it works here in Paris and nowhere else. I’m just glad it does,” Herron said.

For more information, visit www.unclejessefishing.com, or call the Lamar County Chamber of Commerce at 903-784-2501, Brannan’s Bass Shop at 903-732-3422, Rick McDougall at 903-517-2612 or Mike Herron at 903-785-8861.

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