Saturday’s event was big.
It’s not so much that the fishing tournament hosted by the Payson High School Bass and Outdoor Club featured a bunch of other school clubs from across the state because it didn’t. Yuma was the only other area represented.
But the Payson High School Bass Classic was big because it’s just the start of what supporters expect to be something that continues to grow with each passing year.
“We started an outdoor club four years ago and held a tournament, but then it kind of fell by the wayside,” said PHS athletic director Don Heizer. “It was a bass club that lasted about one year. We needed parents involved and we didn’t get that. Now Randy Herrera has stepped up.”
Herrera, the PHS junior varsity boys basketball coach, is a key to Saturday’s Bass Classic. He played a big role in the Ultimate Sportsman’s Giveaway run by the FAN club that raised money for both the PHS Bass Club and the boys basketball program. That event helped fund new uniforms for the basketball program and it also helped get Saturday’s fishing tournament off the ground.
Herrera said the success of last year’s Ultimate Sportsman’s Giveaway, in which people buy raffle tickets and have a chance to win a different prize every day of November, will continue on a yearly basis. Tickets for this November’s drawings will go on sale sometime this month.
Saturday was just the start of something Herrera and Heizer hope grows and grows each year.
“Yuma came to this tournament and now they’re going to host one,” Heizer said. “We’re hoping to get big like Texas. They had 84 boats entered in their state tournament two weeks ago. And they gave away scholarships. That’s something we’d like to be able to do. All the clubs need to be in cahoots so we can get more people involved.”
This tournament featured seven two-man teams, each fishing in their own boat with a coach or captain driving. Three of the teams were from PHS and the others from Yuma.
Herrera said it’s important that the PHS Bass Club got the ball rolling with the tournament. “We wanted to have one to get established,” he said. “We’re going to invite people from Phoenix up for camping skills, and professional hunters and fishermen to give clinics and have archery shoots. It’s endless what we can do. It’s just a matter of getting it together and making it real.”
Tracy and Teresa Purtee of the Let’s Talk Fishin’ radio show, donated their time, boat, gas and weighing scales and ran the tournament. “I’m doing this because it wasn’t available when I was in high school and I want to give Payson kids a chance to fish in a tournament and not have it cost them a lot of money,” Purtee said.
Heizer said the tournament wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without people helping make it happen. “Without people in our community stepping up to help the kids, this doesn’t happen,” Heizer said.
Payson High juniors Matt Davis and Spencer Herrera finished first among the seven teams, bringing in the maximum five fish weighing a total of 9.87 pounds. They both received belt buckles.
Yuma’s Jaysen Brooks and Jonathan Parrish finished second with 9.59 pounds of bass. PHS’s Zacharie Ulmer and Ryan Wacker (8.12) placed third, Yuma’s Brett Edington and Logan Nelson (7.02) fourth, Payson’s Dallin Keith and Montey Shannon (5.80) fifth, Yuma’s Marcos Ramirez and Jose Villareal (3 fish, 3.63) sixth and Yuma’s Juan Castillo and Juan Felix (2 fish, 3.39) seventh.
Brooks and Parrish snagged a 2.72-pound bass, which won the Big Fish award, edging out the 2.64-pound fish Herrera caught.
“I’m really happy we’re putting this tournament on and it’s kind of nice to win the first one our school is putting on,” the younger Herrera said.
“I’m just real glad to represent the school,” Davis said.
The Davis-Herrera team actually caught a lot more than the limit of five so they had to throw the others back. “I think we caught nine,” Herrera said. “We threw four back then lost about six.”
One of those six that got away would have been about twice as big as their heaviest fish.
“We had a 5-pounder we couldn’t catch,” Herrera said.