St. Jude Bass Classic

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 30, 2008

St. Jude tournament drew 249 boats

By Rupert Howell

History, tradition and the support of local anglers have made the St. Jude Bass Classic one of the largest drawing charity fishing tournaments. The tradition will continue at Sardis Lake, according to Dennis Morlak, who served as this year’s tournament director and is coordinator of St. Jude’s hunting and fishing fundraisers.

Morlak said last weekend’s tournament drew 249 boats, somewhat down from previous years but still impressive with recent increases in gas prices, he noted.

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It took only 13.22 pounds of fish to win the tournament, brought in by Troy Thornkill and Justin Jolly.

Locally, the teams of T. Ray Ellis of Sardis and Greg Malone of Batesville, and Preston Baker of Como and Jay Smith of Sardis, finished in the money in 16th and 18th place, respectively, with 5.81and 5.31 pounds of fish.

Lyndall Helmes of Batesville didn’t do well Sunday and has fished all but two of the 36 St. Jude tournaments at Sardis Lake with past finishes in both second and third place once and fifth “four or five times.”

Although he would like to win outright, he says it all goes for a good cause. Helmes also says it’s the best run tournament around with few or no glitches, or at least none that participants are aware of.

Helmes was formerly associated with the fishing industry and noted that at least four big charity tournaments have folded once they changed locations away from Sardis Lake.

Helmes also noted that fishing is sometimes “tough,” as in difficult because fish are usually in transition during Memorial Day weekend, as most have spawned and are “backing out” or moving toward deeper water while recuperating from the spawn.

And Morlak states that tournament officials are aware that lakes have ups and down.

Mike Boeckman is tournament co-director and said, “It’s worth it for all the kids,” stating, “If it was just about the money I wouldn’t be here…”

Boeckman also said it’s consistency that makes anglers return year after year, sometimes from 15 different states, to fish St. Jude.

And there is money involved. Although it costs $275 per boat to enter, the first 25 winners get $42,000 in donated cash and prizes.

Local anglers Tony Daugherty and Charlie Baglan teamed together in the pick-a-partner tournament and although they weren’t “skunked,” they didn’t catch enough fish to make decent conversation. But both were there until the bitter end on Sunday afternoon when the drawing was held for the Ranger boat.

Morlak estimated the worth of the boat to be around $35,000-$40,000, and you did not have to catch fish to be included in the drawing.

But, you did have to be present to win.