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With bass fishing on the verge of becoming an official high school sport in Alabama, organizers at Wetumpka High School launched their first bass fishing tournament at Lake Jordan, host of the 2009 Toyota Tundra Trophy Triumph. Forty-nine boats and a few hours later, they'd netted $3,500 for high school athletics.


by Mike Phelps


As part of the wave of interest in bass fishing, boosters hosted the fundraiser to benefit Wetumpka's basketball and soccer teams, with some participation from the school's bass fishing club. Entry fees were set at $100 per boat, with the top five finishers receiving cash prizes, including $2,000 for first place. The top high school team also received a $500 prize.


By performing the event as a joint fundraiser, tournament organizers were able to guarantee a larger payout, which resulted in more boats signing up to compete. "Most fishing tournaments pay based on how many people show up, but having that number set up front attracted a bigger crowd," says Frank Bertarelli, CEO of Anglers For Kids, a non-profit group that promotes youth fishing, which helped put on the event. "To draw 49 boats for the first tournament is excellent. There are tournaments that have been going for five years that don't bring in more than 50 or 60 boats. It was a very good turnout."


Bertarelli promoted the tournament on his Anglers For Kids Web site, ran an advertisement on a local cable television channel, and utilized student-athletes on the basketball and soccer teams to do a lot of grassroots work in the community. "Students from each team went around to different boat ramps on Saturdays when other tournaments were going on and left flyers on vehicles," he says. "We went to Bass Pro Shop, and they let us put entry forms in their fishing department where customers would see them. We did the same thing at Wetumpka Game and Fish, as well as all the other smaller bait companies around town."


To give the event a big-time feel, Anglers For Kids brought in a pro-style trailer to handle weigh-ins, complete with a stage and PA system for announcing winners. "It was set up just like a pro tournament," Bertarelli says. "That added a lot of excitement to the event because it felt like the real deal, as opposed to people walking up and just having a table set up."


In all, organizers worked on the event for about two months, planning tournament day, promoting, and securing sponsorships from local businesses. Bertarelli found that sponsors were eager to get on board and excited about the uniqueness of the fundraiser.


"A lot of times for fundraising, everyone is just beating doors down selling cookies, or selling this and that," he says. "This was something that involved a lot of people throughout the community. Businesses were excited to hear we were doing something like this.


"When we approached businesses, we just explained what we were doing and asked if they could help us cover the payouts, or if they wanted to donate any freebies to help advertise their name," Bertarelli continues. "For companies that sponsored the event, we provided signage at concession stands during other athletic games. For example, a sign could say that the soccer team this year is sponsored by so-and-so."


Bertarelli believes the tournament could become an annual fundraiser at Wetumpka, and wouldn't rule out other teams at the school getting involved. The tournament proved to be a great way to raise funds for the athletic teams, and didn't require a lot of backbreaking work.


"We spent the whole day of the tournament setting up, doing the weigh-in, and just being there," Bertarelli says. "Other than that, it was pretty simple. And the profit we made in one day was probably better than what you can do all year running concessions."


Mike Phelps is an Assistant Editor at MomentumMedia Sports Publishing. He can be reached at: mp@momentummedia.com.



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