MASON — Fish fanatics from across the tri-state came out to the annual Bend Area C.A.R.E Catfish Tournament.
Elvis Zerkle, founder of the tournament, said everything got started 24 years ago with a back porch chat.
“Originally, this tournament got started by my dad and me sitting on the back porch in 1990. I asked my dad what would be a good way to raise money for C.A.R.E., and he said, ‘Why don’t you have a catfish tournament?’” Zerkle said. “That first year we only had 60 people, and today we have 218 here. We raise between $7,000 to $8,000 every year, which goes to the Kids for Christmas program to help families in the tri-county.”
Fishing wasn’t the only activity at the tournament. The event also included games and activities for the children from bouncy houses to frog races. Chuck Stanley, Bend Area C.A.R.E. member, says he thinks having the children’s events are an important part of the event.
“The children’s events make the tournament more attractive to parents,” Stanley said. “The fathers and mothers come out and fish, and grandparents bring the kids to entertain them during the day, while they’re out on the river. I enjoy watching them have a good time because taking care of the kids is what we’re all about.”
Some kids even got to go fishing in the tournament. Melissa Thomas said she is glad her son had a blast in his first tournament.
“Chance was very proud today because he ended up out fishing his dad, his brother and his brother’s friend,” Thomas said. “He’s really been shining up his fishing pole for this. This being new to him, it’s been like watching a kid on Christmas Eve.”
The competition also boasted a new all time record. Winners of the “Most Weight” category, Justin Conner and Tabitha Linville, reeled in a total weight of 138.2 pounds. The team brought in the most weight ever caught in the 24 years of the tournament. Linville said she did not expect to do so well before she entered the contest.
“It was pretty exciting,” Linville said. “We’ve never entered the tournament before, but when we were catching the big fish, we were just really excited and thought maybe we had a chance.”
The winners of the “Most Weight” category were Justin Conner and Tabitha Linville in first place with five fish and a total weight of 138.2 pounds; Larry Lange, Joshua Lange, Gregory Lange in second place with five fish and a total weight of 106.2 pounds; and Bink Fox and Janet Fox with five Fish and a total weight of 99.02 pounds.
In the “Father-Son/Daughter” category the winners were Larry Lange, Joshua Lange and Gregory Lange with five fish and a total weight of 106.2 pounds.
In the “Big Cat” category winners were Jeff Corley, Brandon Kopis and Mike Kopis in first place with a total weight of 40.70 pounds, and Larry Lange, Joshua Lange and Gregory Lange in second place with a total weight of 40.36 pounds.