Monday, May 6, 2013

Tourney Trail Designed for Best of the Best

News to Know
 by Kelly Caldwell


Reminiscing  while fishing his favorite spot on Lake Wedowee, Clay County resident Jackson Bonner had an idea.
"When I was coming up on Lake Wedowee, there seemed to be fishing tournaments here every weekend," he said. "But in recent years, it had dwindled to hardly any."
Bonner was a charter member of the Auburn University Bass Sports Club and knew a thing or two about organization.
"What I wanted to do here was create a tournament trail for our local fishermen," Bonner said. "But, I wanted it to really be about the fishermen... and give away the most money we could."
After partnering with the Clay County Chamber of Commerce, Bonner's vision became a reality in 2012 with the creation of the RL Harris Tournament Trail.
Launching from Highway 48 Bridge on Lake Wedowee, the monthly tournament began its second season in March.
"Teams can still join the trail through the third tournament which is May 18," Bonner said.
It costs $100 per team per tournament plus $10 for Big Fish. There is also a one-time $40 fee per team for membership dues.
"We really pay out as much as possible," Bonner said. "For the 2012 classic, we paid out nearly $6,000 for nine places. And in the 11 tournaments, we averaged paying out $3,000.
"That's great incentive for these guys," Bonner said. "Our tournaments are 80 percent payout and we averaged about 30 boats a tournament last year."
In the first tournament of the  2013 season, there were 29 boats registered   and the tournament paid out over $2,500.
"Tournaments can be expensive if you think about it," Bonner said. "So the motivation with this was to give our local fisherman an opportunity to compete on their home lake.
The tournament trail culminates in February with the Classic.  To be eligible for the Classic, a team must place in the top 30 percent of the field or compete in all 11 tournaments.
"The point standings can get interesting at times especially once we get 8 tournaments under our belt," Bonner said. "Because we take the top 8 finishes toward the end of the year lots of changes can happen from tournament to tournament."
The tournament dates for the rest of the trail include May 18, June 22, July 20, Aug. 17, Sept. 7, Oct. 12, Nov. 23, Dec. 21 and Jan. 25. The Classic, a two day tournament on Lake Wedowee, will be Feb. 22-23.
"The times of the tournaments depend on the season," Bonner said. "We have three night tournaments and then in the winter we have a 7 a.m. start because its colder."

For more information, contact Bonner at 256.343.4796 or email at jackson745@aol.com.

2013 R.L. Harris Tournament Trail Standings Through April



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