Paris Landing, TN – On Saturday, in spite of storming weather, several hundred fishermen in 227 boats gathered at the Paris Landing State Park Marina for the 20th Annual Austin Peay State University Governor’s Bass Tournament.
Last season’s tourney drew 282 boats—14 more than in 2012, despite entrants being forced to utilize the back entrance because of flooding. This year’s turnout was likely suppressed by the weather which resulted in a slightly lower turnout.
Those who did come had a great time as stormy weather at launch time, gave over to sunny skies by the mid-afternoon weigh-in time.
Expectations were high when I spoke with Steve Shaw, Director of Corporate Relations for Austin Peay State University and tournament director for the 2014 APSU Governors Bass Tournament.
“From the start here we have a lot of fishermen coming. My understanding is that there have been a lot of big fish caught over the last several tournaments so if the weather will hold for us I think we will have a great day of fishing, and a good weigh-in this afternoon about 2:30pm.” “Every year that I’ve been here water has been almost up over the road here just about, and so today we get to start out a lot cleaner, a lot fresher. As far as the tournament itself we are going to be running about 250 boats which has been about average for a tournament. So we are looking forward to getting it underway.”
Shaw spoke about how Austin Peay uses the proceeds from the Tournament.
“The proceeds for the tournament go back to athletics department, and it will be based on the needs of the department where it will go. Traditionally it’s been directed at our football program, but anymore we have a lot of other programs that need some things. We do have a new football stadium under construction, but this will not actually go towards the football stadium; but I think it’s important for everyone to understand that we are continuing to grow our athletics program. Usually these fund-raising events go more towards the smaller projects whether it’s updating our locker room or some equipment need.”
Shaw then listed the sponsors who made this event possible including:
Legends Bank, Morgan Contractors Inc., Jenkins and Wynne Ford Lincoln Mercury Honda, Tailwater Marine and Tackle, The Leaf Chronicle, WJZM 1400 AM, WKDZ 106.5 FM, WVRY 105.1 FM Solid Gospel, Walmart Supercenters (Clarksville), DBS and Associates Engineering, Inc. (David Smith), Academy Sports + Outdoors, Grandpa’s Outdoors, The Tackle Box, The New Clarksville Marina at Liberty Park, Discover Clarksville, Clarksville Floor Covering, Gateway Tire and Service, Clarksville Online, Clarksville Sports Network, along with the Governors Club. “Legends Bank has been with us from the get-go, they have been a part of this tournament it seems like forever!” said Shaw.
The Clarksville Bass Club was on hand providing staffing for the Tournament, I spoke with Kenneth Head, Secretary/Treasurer for the Clarksville Bass Club who served as the emcee for the event.
“The weather looks like it might hold us down a few boats it looks like we have some heavy rain coming in from the West, but hopefully it will blow on through will have a great day of fishing,” said Head. “The weather doesn’t affect the fishing as much as the fisherman with the storms and the lightning; if it’s doing that people need to get off the water. But the fish don’t know it’s raining it’s all wet to them!”
His assessment given before the boats headed out to the lake on the fishing situation proved right on target, “The river is at or near summer pool at 359′. The fish should still be in the bushes, they are still moving in and transitioning through; some of them are spawning, some of them going to spawn, some of them getting ready to go in. They will catch some fish shallow, but the water level is good right now for the fishing.”
Billy Atkins, chairman and CEO of Legends Bank, a corporate sponsor of the 2014 Austin Peay State University Governors Bass Tournament agreed with Head.
“The weather will probably affect the people here working the tournament more than it will affect the fisherman. The fisherman go prepared we have rain suits to handle the wet stuff, so we only have to worry about lightning. But when it gets close we know to get out of it and get into a Marina somewhere. Most of the fisherman know how to be safe on the water” according to Atkins.
The Corps of Engineers had raised and lowered the lake a little bit lately. And the last move has been that they’ve lowered the water level some. And most of this week the level has been stabilized if not coming up just a little bit. So it may be a little harder to find the fish then when the waters been stable for a number days or really rising which makes it easier to find the fish.
Atkins and Head both participated on the committee that organized the tournament over twenty years ago.
“A guy named Walt Herman and myself, started the tournament with Coach Roy Gregory, and a boy named David Armstrong who was the quarterback coach at Austin Peay State University 20 years ago,” said Head. “They called us and asked us to start this and so we’ve been doing it for the last 20 years,” according to Atkins.
“This is my first year working at the Bass tournament,” said volunteer Britney Campbell, Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations for Legends Bank and the current president of the Austin Peay State University Governor’s Club. She was working at the check in table, “I was really excited to see all the boats and everything come in. That’s a lot of organization and logistics that take place to make this happen. I have been really impressed all of the volunteers who have come in from the University in the community to cook and set up for the tournament. I think that events like this that a been going on for 20 years develop into the community institution and that makes people want to come back and do it year after year.”
The Governor’s Club was on hand ensuring that no one had to leave the tournament hungry. I spoke with Len Rye the owner of Len Rye Construction about the menu for the day.
“Today we’re having sausage and biscuit, and pork loin and biscuit for breakfast this morning,” he said. “Then this afternoon were going to have smoked chicken leg quarters with baked beans and potatoes, along with hamburgers and hotdogs.”
The chicken is absolutely amazing and I asked him to talk a little bit about it, “The chicken is cooked in a 55 gallon barrel and we jokingly call it trashcan chicken. We coat the bottom of the barrel with charcoal and get it lit and burning, and then hang the chicken from hooks at the top of the barrel and it sits and smokes for three hours. It is some of the most delicious chicken you will ever have truly finger licking good. ”
After the boats headed out on the lake, the tournament staff headed to the Paris Landing State Park Hotel and had breakfast.
Afterwards the crew returned to the boat ramp to get everything setup for the weigh-in. I was given a chance to head out on the water and see some of the fishing action.
APSU’s Head Football Coach Kirby Cannon rode along. I asked him about how he thought things were going, “This is my second time at the Austin Peay State University’s Governors Bass tournament,” said he said. “Last year was certainly better weather conditions but it’s still a lot of fun!””
He continued, “In the athletics department we try to treat it as a good time and try to make some connections with the community and some of the fisherman who participants. Most of them are so into fishing right now that chatting about the team and all that is not what they really want to do. But it’s a great time and I hope that we can make it an even bigger event as we move forward.”
Upon returning to the dock I caught up with Derek van der Merwe, athletics director for Austin Peay State University. This was his first Governor’s Bass Tournament and he was hard at work with the rest of the volunteers. “This is the 20 year anniversary of the Austin Peay State University Governors Bass tournament.” he said. “If you look back at that 20 year period, the tournament has raised between between $450,000 to $500,000 dollars to support our athletics programs at Austin Peay State University.”
He continued, “This tournament was started by Coach Roy Gregory, and his vision was to build something that would help the football program but it’s become a staple in helping all of our athletic programs. The money raised goes towards scholarships, new equipment day-to-day operations, and travel; it’s been a critical element that is helped us to grow as an athletics department.”
Finally I spoke with Cheryl Holt, the assistant athletics director at Austin Peay State University
“The weather today started out really rough,” she said. “The weather this morning was not very pleasant. I don’t think I’ve ever been in such a torrential downpour in my life, but Everyone has such a really great attitude, and we like working towards a common goal and this gives us a great opportunity to bond with the members of the Austin Peay State University Governors club. And to establish great relations with the fisherman in this community.”
Twelve thousand dollars in prize money was awarded with a first-place prize of $5,000. Second-place is guaranteed $1,500. Third and fourth-place will receive $1,000 and $600.00, respectively. The top 25 places will receive prizes. Along with prizes to the boats with the biggest bass caught. Door Prizes were given out at the completion of the weigh-in including a $2,000 grand prize
The team of Brian Cook and Calvin Cothron, of Springfield, Tennessee were declared the winners of the 20th Annual Governors Bass Tournament with a 24.71 pound stringer of bass. They were followed up by Doug Storie and David Schmidt of Tennessee Ridge, who brought in 21.85 pounds of bass and took home $1,500. In third place winning $1,000 was Michael Wooley and Jimmy Smith from Collierville, Tennessee, with the catch of 21.47 pounds.
The Big Bass Competition was fierce, but there could only be one winner Donnie and Lila Williams of Paris. The husband and wife team had a good day at the lake; they caught a total of 20.51 pounds of fish and took fourth place and $600—they also won the Big Bass pot with a large mouth bass weighing 7.47 pounds making their total winnings nearly $2,000.
Scott Mansfeild of Mackenzie, Tennessee, won the drawing for the grand door prize of $2,000.