Anglers from around the Western U.S. are arriving in Payson today, Feb. 11, to compete in the first-ever Western Outdoor News (WON) bass tournament to be held on Roosevelt Lake.
The festivities get underway from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. today with a mandatory check-in at Mazatzal Hotel and Casino, the tournament’s host site.
Later this evening there will be refreshments and hors d’oeuvres followed by a partner pairing meeting.
Gila County Dist. One Supervisor Tommie Martin, Mazatzal general manager Farrell Hoosava, Arizona Game and Fish Manager Chris Cantrell and Wayne Dorsett of the Gila County Sheriff’s Office are scheduled to speak at the meeting.
Action in earnest kicks off at safe light, about 6:30 a.m., tomorrow at Cholla ramp and continues throughout the day.
Action begins again at safe light on Sunday and wraps up from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. with an awards ceremony at the hotel-casino. WON official Bill Egan will emcee the ceremony.
Pro anglers paid an entry fee of $500 to participate and will be fishing to pocket the first prize of $11,000. The secondplace finisher will receive $7,000 and the third-place finisher takes home $4,000.
The top 14 pros will receive prize money.
Those who enter the AAA or amateur division pay a $250 entry fee and are eligible for a first-place prize of $2,500. The top 16 in the AAA field will be awarded prize money.
WON officials are anticipating 100 to 150 anglers will participate.
Among them will be Payson pro Clifford Pirch and AAA entrant Tracy Purtee, also of Payson
Since the event is the first WON has hosted at Roosevelt, the group earlier this year called upon the Payson Volunteer Committee headed by Jim Goughnour and Dennis Pirch to help with the logistics.
The committee was successful in hosting two earlier FLW tournaments at Roosevelt, and Goughnour has been told that it was those achievements that prompted WON officials to ask for the group’s assistance.
Since being enlisted to help, committee volunteers have spent hundreds of hours planning traffic control, scheduling media presentations, arranging to have Tonto National Forest parking passes available, making discount cards available to competitors, arranging for boat inspections and scheduling transportation for officials.
At the conclusion of the WON tournament, there will be no down time for committee members because they have volunteered to help host an FLW Everstart tournament Feb. 17 to 19 at Roosevelt. It is expected to draw about 300 anglers.
The tournament festivities kick off 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 15 with an “Anglers’ Appreciation Dinner” at the Mazatzal Hotel and Casino. Activities wrap up at 4 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 19 at Walmart with the final weigh-in.
In the weeks leading up to the tournament, committee volunteers have scoured the town in search of raffle prizes, all the while making arrangements to bring in a master of ceremonies for the weigh-in and enlisting 25 local boat owners to assist the FLW college anglers.
Goughnour says National Guard FLW College Fishing is the country’s largest tournament-fishing competition for college bass clubs.
In the competitions, college clubs compete for lucrative scholarships and prizes, plus a chance to compete in the prestigious Forrest Wood Cup.
The college tournaments are free to enter and boats and drivers are provided to the collegians. The college tournament at Roosevelt is scheduled for Feb. 19.