The annual fall trout fishing tournament that in the past has benefited the Christopher-Kohl’s Fire Department and Payson Community Christian School has a new benefactor.
This year, all profits will benefit the nonprofit radio station 98.5 FM KCMA and the Let’s Talk Fishin’ program.
What hasn’t changed about the tournament is that it offers throngs of heat-weary desert dwellers and local anglers one final fling of high country lake fishing competition before the snow flies.
It all occurs at the 11th annual tournament to be held from 5 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 9 at Willow Springs Lake, located 32 miles east of Payson and north of Highway 260.
The entry fee is $25 per person if registering on the letstalkfishin@gmail Web site or postmarked before tomorrow, Oct. 2. The fee for children under 13 years is $15.
Tournament day registration at the lake dock opens at 6 a.m. and closes at 7 a.m. Fees then will be $30 per adults and $20 per child.
Those who pre-register 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. Weigh-in closes at 4 p.m.
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 awarded for largest fish and most total weight in two categories.
Category No. 1 will include rainbow and/or German brown trout and category No. 2 is large and smallmouth bass.
Throughout the day, $1 raffle tickets will be sold for a drawing to take place after the weigh-in.
The fall tournament, which has long been hosted by Tracy Purtee, annually marks the end of the fishing season on the high country lakes.
A similar benefit tournament in the spring, also sponsored by Purtee, signals the onset of the summer fishing season.
For the tournament, 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 can be kept is 8 inches. The benefit will take place regardless of weather conditions.
For more information, call (928) 478-4337.
Both the spring and fall trout tournaments were originally held at Woods Canyon Lake before Purtee moved them several years ago to Willow Springs.
Following the spring tournament, Willow Springs and Woods Canyon become popular fishing and camping respites for desert dwellers eager to escape the Valley’s searing heat.
After the fall tournament, roads to the two lakes are usually closed due to winter snowfall.
Among the visitors to Willow Springs in the fall of 2005 was Pam Bumbalow, who entered the Fall Classic at her granddaughter’s request and because it was a charity event. She surprised everyone, including herself by reeling in a 21.2-ounce lunker with some 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 to become the youngest competitor to ever catch a fish in either of the benefit tournaments. The youngster brought in three trout that tipped the scales at 12.6 ounces.
Also that year, Purtee caught the runner-up in the Big Fish Contest, a 10.8-ounce rainbow.
Among Purtee’s most cherished recollections of past tournaments is the 1996 spring competition. It was held just days after the Arizona Game and Fish Department had stocked Woods Canyon Lake.
“They (Arizona Game and Fish) had cleaned out their breeder pond and put the fish in the lake,” he said. “There were some big fish in there.”
With Woods Canyon overloaded with lunker-sized trout, tournament fishing was at its best.
“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, about 7 pounds, ever weighed in.