MASON — Fishermen will have the chance of winning a first-place prize of $2,000 when the Bend Area C.A.R.E. organization holds its 24th annual Catfish Tournament on Saturday, June 7.
Billed as one of the largest catfish tournaments in the eastern part of the United States, the local event will be held on the Gallipolis Pool of the Ohio River at the Mason levee. The tournament will begin at 7 a.m., with weigh-in set for 4 p.m.
According to Elvis Zerkle, tournament director, there have been some changes to this year’s event, beginning with an increase in the first-place prize money. Zerkle said the top payout last year was $1,200. That has been increased to $2,000 this year.
Prior tournaments have had teams of two. This year, teams can have up to four members, although there is an additional fee for the third and fourth member.
Zerkle said the changes have come about due to a decrease in the number of participants last year.
“We are seeing a decline in the tournament,” Zerkle said. “Last year, we only had 88 boats where we use to have over 100.” He added pre-registration as of May 20 stood at 25 boats, where normally registration would be in the 40s or 50s.
A successful tournament is important to the members of Bend Area C.A.R.E., as it usually funds half of the total money the organization uses in its “Kids for Christmas” program. Zerkle said last year more than $12,000 was spent to help local needy children enjoy Christmas by providing gifts and treats to more than 20 families, which included about 80 children.
Children are also included at the fishing tournament. At 1 p.m. Saturday, there will be a frog jump contest, casting contest and watermelon-eating contest. Zerkle said there are three age groups in the frog jump and casting contests for children 12 years and younger. The watermelon eating contest includes divisions up through adult.
In addition to the $2,000 first-place prize, there are many other prizes in the tournament. The second-place team will receive $900, and third place will get $600. The first place father-son/daughter team will receive $50 plus the R.J. Roush Memorial Trophy. The “Big Cat” winner will get $500, with second place receiving $200. According to the official rules, upon closing of the scales, the leaders of the most weight and the big cat will undergo a mandatory polygraph test.
More information and official rules can be obtained from Zerkle at 304-812-6254 or Jason Roush at 304-917-0003.