Minneapolis, Minn. (May 6, 2015) –  Seventeen years ago, a group of anglers organized what would become a bass fishing tournament extraordinaire. They wanted to fish with a purpose. After all these years, their threshold of making that difference hit the $2,000,000.00 mark. With a whopping $316,650.00 raised last weekend on the Mississippi River, the tournament continues to stack record-breaking year on top of record-breaking year. All funds from the tournament benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. What is the key?

“We’ve had a core group of anglers who continue to step up year after year to make a difference for the kids and their families at St. Jude,” said Corey Waller, committee chairman. Waller toured the Memphis, Tennessee hospital and research facility a few years ago, describing it as a life-changing event. “Everyone is generous and creative in their fundraising and we have teams contributing $500.00 in some cases and more than $20,000.00 in others. When you can see the difference it makes to the families, it makes all the hard work worth it.” The organization continues to receive support from longterm sponsors like Ranger Boats and Cabela’s. This year, the City of Wabasha and the local Chamber of Commerce stepped up in a bigger way and fully embraced the event. “We are committed to the work of this tournament,” said George Liddle, manufacturer’s representative from Ranger Boats. “In every way, this brings the best out of a day on the water fishing.”

This year, the planning committee implemented a team fundraising minimum of $500.00. There are incremental payout incentives for teams raising $1500.00 or more, but this was the first year the committee established a minimum threshold. “Last year 25 teams paid their entry fee, but didn’t raise any additional money. This year, only four teams raised the minimum of $500.00, the rest well exceeding that minimum. It really pushed us past our goal,” continued Waller. With $231k raised last year, the goal was $250k this year, but with the required minimum kicking everyone’s commitment up a notch, they even blew past $300k.

Many of the two-person teams spend the entire year participating in their own, unique fundraising events. There are oyster feeds and sporting clays shoots in addition to more traditional pancake breakfasts and spaghetti dinners. “The guys blew it out of the water this year,” said Melissa Bargmann, Regional Development Representative from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Every year, a patient family speaks at the banquet, talking about their St. Jude journey. “It provides inspiration for the anglers and a way to say ‘thank you’ for the work they do year-round,” continued Bargmann. “It is pretty incredible. For a small group of anglers they raise a lot of money.” No family ever receives a bill from St. Jude for treatment, housing or food—because all a family should worry about is helping their child live.

Nate Lindall of Carver, Minnesota spoke this year. His daughter, Abby, age 11, has Craniopharyngioma, a benign brain tumor on the pituitary gland affecting growth and normal hormone functionality. Nate and his wife, Susan Lecy-Lindall, spent four months at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis last year with multiple surgeries and treatments for Abby. “St. Jude is such an amazing place,” said Lindall. “I’m so humbled by the generosity of these anglers. To anyone who raises even one dollar, I want them to know the money is going to talented people who are helping to cure cancer. The research they are doing—every day—is making a difference around the world. There are so many people at St. Jude who are caring, attentive and working as a team to help Abby get better.”

Scott Pellegrin of Eau Claire, Wisconsin and Joel Willert of Burnsville, Minnesota won the tournament with 40.70 pounds for 12 fish. They raised $700 for St. Jude and took home $5,000 plus sponsor contingencies for the win. “What we raised was chump change compared to the other teams who have the fundraising down pat,” said Pellegrin. “It is amazing that tournament anglers take time to pursue that kind of money to donate. Quite impressive.” Had Pellegrin and Willert raised $1,500 their payout would have been $7,500—something Pellegrin said he would set for a goal next year. “Now that I have my mind wrapped around how it works, I’ll put it out there for a good cause. I know business owners, and I hope to raise $1500 or more next year.” Pellegrin and Willert are both veterans and enjoyed fishing a team-format tournament together. All the teams raising $1500 or more are given a payout bonus if they finish in the top 20% of the field.

Dave Mansell and Josh Miller, both from Roberts, Wisconsin, raised $24,595.00 for the effort, securing a coveted spot as the top fundraising team. In all, ten teams raised over $10,000.00 each including: Jason Holmer/Cory Larson ($20,696.00), Scott Bonnema/Rick Pelletier ($20,297.50), Drew Dickenson/Ken Snow ($17,251.00), Jeffrey Mulholland/Matt Pretzer ($14,240.40), Scott Cloutier/Scott Fischer ($11,490.00), Joe Hall/Aaron LaRoque ($11,308.00), Chad Sanderson/Dan Zimmerman ($11,308.00), and Jim Kostroski/Bryant Dick ($11,308.00).

To register or learn more about the tournament, visit stjudefishing.com or call Melissa Bargmann at (952) 893-0442 or email melissa.bargmann@stjude.org.

Logo courtesy Dick Hiley St. Jude Bass Classic

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