MASON — Members of Bend Area C.A.R.E. are gearing up for the 26th annual catfish tournament, set for June 4 at the Stewart-Johnson V.F.W./Lottie Jenks Memorial Park in Mason.
According to Elvis Zerkle, C.A.R.E. member and one of the tourney organizers, the event is the organization’s largest fundraiser each year. He said proceeds from the tournament provide between 60 percent and 70 percent of the $10,000 the group annually spends on needy families at Christmas.
The tournament begins at 7 a.m., with weigh-in set for 4 p.m. at the levee. Check-in and registration will be 5-6:15 a.m., with the rules being read at 6:30 a.m.
Entries will be cut off at 125 boats, but so far, only 15 to 20 teams have pre-registered, Zerkle said. He added there has been a decline in the number of participants in recent years, due to the large number of catfish tournaments now held.
Zerkle said the local tournament has kept its core people, however. He stated the High Hills Catfish Club and Kanawha River Catfish Club usually account for between 30 and 40 boats that participate.
Payback for the tourney is over $4,000, with the first place team winning $1,500. The second place team will win $800; third place, $600; fourth place, $400; and fifth place, $200. In addition, other prizes will be awarded to the first place father and son/daughter team, the “big cat,” and various “anything goes” categories.
Registration for a two-person team is $60, with each additional person being $30, up to four total. There is no age limit on participants, but all are required to have a valid fishing license.
Zerkle said even those who do not fish can find entertainment at the event. Kids games will be ongoing throughout the day, as well as a raffle drawing for $500. Door prizes from local and corporate sponsors will be given out following the weigh-in. The Stewart-Johnson V.F.W. Post 9926 Auxiliary will be offering breakfast for sale that morning, as well as other food selections throughout the afternoon.
Over the past 25 years, the tournament has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for C.A.R.E.’s “Kids for Christmas Program,” Zerkle said. He added each year, 60 children from 20 needy families are provided with a toy, shoes, coat and clothing. Each family is also given a $100 food gift card to allow for a holiday meal.
For more information on the tournament or Bend Area C.A.R.E., contact Zerkle at 304-773-5680 or 304-812-6254, or Jason Roush at 304-971-0003.
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing who lives in Mason County.