HOT SPRINGS – There was no “blast off” of boats or large crowd to watch the weigh-in at this year’s Commissioners’ Cup youth bass tournament, presented by Xpress Boats, but the fishing fever was no less evident in the ranks of high school and junior high anglers fishing across the state Saturday, June 20. At the end of the day, it was the team of Kanon Harmon of Haskell and Brody Jacks of Tull who stood above the field with an impressive limit of fish from Millwood Lake in Southwest Arkansas. Their six-bass limit measured 102.5 inches, nearly half a foot longer than second place.
This year’s format saw substantial changes to mitigate the risk of exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19. This year’s field was expanded to include junior high as well as the top high school anglers in the state. Using a new format known as C.P.R. (catch, photo, release) the teams were able to choose from 12 different bodies of water across Arkansas. Tourney X was chosen as the platform to run the day-long tournament, keeping up with scoring and leaderboard throughout the event.
“The software allowed us to have a virtual weigh-in so kids wouldn’t be gathered in one space for an event,” said Deke Whitbeck, president of the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation. “Another incredible benefit was that the kids chose where they wanted to fish from 12 lakes across Arkansas and gave us an opportunity to highlight the state’s incredible fisheries. It was really great to see pictures coming in from every corner of the state as the day progressed.”
The event was “broadcast” live from tournament sponsor Trader Bills Outdoors in Hot Springs through the event’s Facebook page. Judges set up “Commissioners’ Cup Central” in the store, and stayed glued to their computer screens inspecting photos of landed fish on measuring boards submitted by the anglers. Hunter Baughman volunteered to help judge the results.
“The technology was incredible and easy to use. In a matter of a few seconds, we were able to verify the length of the fish, where it was caught, and its condition,” Baughman said.
Overall winners were determined by a team’s combined length of their best six fish.
Second place resulted in a tie at 97 inches, with the nod going to the team with the overall longest fish. As a result, for the second year in a row, second place was awarded to the team of Cole Martin and Kanon Goss – both in junior high school. The duo plans to continue fishing together and look forward to a promising high school career. Cody McEntire and Keaton Bassham held onto third place to round out the top three teams.
An assortment of tackle, rods, reels, and other prizes were awarded to the top 10 teams. The top three teams will receive recognition at the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation’s annual Outdoor Hall of Fame banquet scheduled for August 29 in Little Rock. A special prize also will be awarded the night of the banquet to angler Brady Horton from Clinton who caught the day’s longest bass measuring 20.5 inches. The trophy was created and donated by Rodney Harper from Harper’s Pure Country Taxidermy in Damascus and will be dedicated in honor of retired AGFC Enforcement Officer Ross Spurlock.
The Foundation is looking for ways to expand on the technology used at the event.
“I feel like it’s something that will open doors for future fishing events for the Foundation and AGFC,” Whitbeck said. “I see opportunities for things like a bream fishing contest or even a bank fishing contest across the state. The possibilities are unlimited as we continue our goal of introducing new people to the outdoors and encourage all to unplug and engage in Arkansas’s Outdoors.”