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Bass tourney benefits area veterans, families

Oconomowoc Enterprise - 6/28/2018

The Wisconsin Alliance of Bass Tournament Anglers (WABTA) held its annual tournament recently on Pewaukee Lake, with all proceeds going toward Camp Ryan Adams, a Wisconsin-based charity that provides healing experiences in the outdoors to combat-wound-ed veterans and their families.

The event draws some of the best bass anglers in the state, but this year, a new "big bass" format gave even inexperienced anglers a chance to win some cash.

Ryan Chuckel of Delafield has helped run the tournament since it started, but several WABTA members lend a hand - and even several boats - for the cause.

"It is an open tournament for two-person teams that want to compete for thousands of dollars of prize money," Chuckel said. "Big bass of the day wins $2,500, with thousands of more dollars in cash prizes throughout the day being awarded."

Ten combat-wounded veterans fished in the tournament with guides from local fishing clubs.

"This is the sixth year for this event," Chuckel said. "The first year, we didn't really do anything to raise money; we just took three veterans out fishing as part of a regular WABTA tournament. Since then, we've raised over $80,000 and hope to raise about $30,000 this year."

The reason for the change is to attract more anglers which in turn will help raise more money for the vets.

"We wanted this event to be inviting to anyone interested in participating; not just serious tournament anglers," Chuckel said. "So we switched from a traditional bass tournament format to a ?big bass' format. We held four weigh-ins throughout the tournament day. Each team could weigh in one bass during each weigh-in and be eligible for cash prizes from $500 for biggest bass at each weigh-in to $100 for fifth biggest. The big bass of the day automatically won $2,500. The idea is that now we have 20 winners instead of just eight to 10."

The concept is a cool one because right up to the last minute of the event, a person can land a six-pounder and possibly win $2,500 on one, single cast, plus it's almost like there are four other "mini" tournaments in which a person just needs a little luck.

While it can be really tough to weigh in five quality keepers at one time - which is often the case in bass tournaments - this style lends itself well to simply having a good time.

If you miss out on weigh-in No. 1, no big deal; you have three others in which to register a big one.

The new format did not come out of thin air. A lot of research was done to ensure that WABTA runs a smooth event.

"We have spent a lot of time working with other organizations around the country that conduct similar format bass tournaments and we are applying lots of their best practices," Chuckel said. "We feel very comfortable that we will be able to handle it well in terms of weighing every fish and returning them to the fishery."

Pewaukee Lake is a fairly large body of water, so a person might be thinking, "Will I have to run into the launch several times without knowing if my fish is the biggest one for a given flight?"

To help alleviate that stress, cellphones will help, although there is still some strategy for when it's time to weigh in a fish.

"We are using a club texting feature for the tournament," Chuckel said. "During each weigh-in, we send one or two notices to participants letting them know what the current big bass weight is. That said, there is a bit of gamesmanship that comes into play with this format. Teams have to make some decisions about when they weigh fish to maximize their winnings."

At the conclusion of the tournament, there was a fundraiser at the site of the weigh-in at Gina's Sports Dock on the shores of Pewaukee Lake.

(Dan Durbin's outdoors column appears occasionally in the Oconomowoc Enterprise. Durbin may be reached at 644-7940.)


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