Teresa and Tracy Purtee are gearing up to host the fray that signals the start of the spring and summer fishing season on high country lakes — the 28th Annual Payson Community Christian School Trout Tournament.
The good news is that the husband and wife have been doing it for so many years, it has become old hat to them. Which means anglers can kick back and enjoy the first fishing of the season without many worries.
Equally as important, those anglers who are successful can be assured of being rewarded with a bounty of beautiful trophies as well as raffle and drawing prizes.
Although Teresa Purtee stepped away last October as PCCS’s lead administrator, after 15 years at the helm of the parochial school, she will continue to help host the tournament which benefits the school’s fishing program.
This year, the tournament will be held 5 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, May 8 at Willow Springs Lake, located 32 miles East of Payson and north of SR 260.
The entry fee is $30 for those who pre-register by tomorrow, May 1, or $35 on tournament day.
Entry forms are available at the offices of the Payson Roundup, 708 N. Beeline, or by calling (928) 478-4377.
Teresa Purtee can also be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tournament day registration at the lake dock opens at 5 a.m. and closes at 7 a.m. Those who preregister must also check-in before beginning to fish.
A one-hour weigh-in begins at 3 p.m. at the dock, which allows participants to catch and release if they wish to do so.
Awards and prizes will be given out at a ceremony beginning at 4 p.m. in the lake parking lot.
First-, second- and third-place trophies will be given out for the largest fish and the most total weight in two divisions: rainbow and/or German brown trout and large- and small-mouth bass.
Children 13 years and younger are eligible to receive first-, second- and third-place trophies for largest fish caught, trout or bass.
Due to the size of the lake, the tournament is open only to the first 100 anglers to register.
All entrants must be in possession of an Arizona fishing license and a trout stamp. Arizona Game and Fish laws limit an angler to six trout per day.
The minimum size trout that should be kept is 8 inches. The benefit will take place regardless of weather conditions.
Since the inception of the tournament more than a quarter century ago, when it was held at Woods Canyon Lake and benefited the Kohl’s Ranch Fire Department, it has grown to become the stuff of which legends are made.
Visit any barbershop or waterin’ hole in the Rim Country and you’ll hear fascinating tales about the tournament.
Among the most unusual of the tournaments took place in 1996 when the Arizona Game and Fish Department stocked the lake just days before the tournament.
“They had cleaned out their breeders’ pond and put the fish in the lake,” Purtee said. “There was some big fish in there.”
With Woods Canyon overloaded with lunker-sized trout, tournament fishing was the best it had ever been.
“A 12-year-old boy fishing from the shore with a bobber caught a 6-pound rainbow,” Purtee said. “That’s one of the biggest that’s been caught.”
The tournament also produced the largest stringer of fish ever weighed in — about 7 pounds.
The Purtees also fondly recall the tournament Pam Bumbalow entered only at her granddaughter’s request and because it was a charity event. Although she was a novice, she caught a 21.2-ounce lunker with a powerbait she had modified.
“I kind of decorated it to look like a cricket,” she said. “When I caught it, we were trolling back (to the shore) because my granddaughter had to go to the bathroom.”
In the 2004 fall tournament, 3-year-old Sonny Gardner braved cold and windy conditions, which sent most anglers scampering for cover, to become the youngest competitor to ever catch fish at the benefit. The youngster reeled in three trout that tipped the scales at 12.6 pounds.
Following the traditional tip-off on May 8, Willow Springs, and its sister lake at Woods Canyon, will become popular fishing and camping respites for desert dwellers eager to escape the Valley’s searing heat.