Bass tourney, open water swim planned for lakes

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 27, 2009

Saturday is shaping up as a busy morning on Warren County’s lakes.

Beginning at 4 a.m., as many as 100 fishermen are expected to descend on Lake Chotard for the 13th annual Area 10 Special Olympics Large Bass Tournament.

A couple hours later and a few miles south, at Eagle Lake, several dozen swimmers will hit the water for the first Mississippi Open Water Swim Championship.

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The bass tournament will also feature an arts and crafts area and a small bass tournament for children, a fish fry and a raffle for a bass boat. The entry fee is $100 per two-man boat, plus a $5 launch fee, and all proceeds benefit the Special Olympics. Check-in begins at 4 a.m. at Chotard Landing, and fishing at 6. There are hourly prizes for the biggest fish, as well as an overall $1,000 prize for the largest bass of the day.

Ronnie McGowan, a former president of the Grand Gulf Bass Club, said this is one of the more popular bass tournaments in the area. While most weekend tournaments draw about 15 boats, McGowan expects as many as 50 to show up on Saturday.

“Guys know what the money is going for. A lot of the same guys come back every year. They know where the money goes and it’s a fun tournament,” McGowan said.

Sandy Hearn, a volunteer coach with Area 10 Special Olympics, said the bass tournament — Area 10’s only fundraiser — has raised as much as $30,000 for the organization. She expects this year’s event to bring in between $5,000 and $10,000. The money will help pay for Area 10’s events, equipment and transportation throughout the year.

“It usually gets us through the year if we have a good turnout,” Hearn said. “If it wasn’t for the Bass Club, our kids wouldn’t get to go where they go.”

The Open Water Swim is an event put on by the Vicksburg Swim Association, and its proceeds will benefit that group. The registration fee is $40, plus a required $10 registration fee with USA Swimming. Swimmers will start from Messina Landing and make their way around a one-mile course filled with buoys, lifeguards, kayaks and scores of safety personnel.

In a lake full of various critters — alligators, snakes, turtles and fish, to name a few — plenty of safety precautions are being taken, said Sheri Wallace, meet director for swim.

No boats, except for jet skis ridden by lifeguards, kayaks associated with Mississippi Kayakers, and safety boats with river rescue crews from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, will be allowed in the water. Officials from the MDWFP will be on hand to deal with Eagle Lake’s animal population. The swimmers themselves will wear neon green caps to increase their visibility, and there will be a staggered start to keep them from banging into one another.

Still, the prospect of swimming next to — and away from — the lake’s native denizens was part of the fun, Wallace said.

“It’s very adventurous. It’s definitely more difficult than swimming laps in a pool,” Wallace said. “Anything dangerous, Wildlife is going to take care of it. But that’s part of the adventure. We joked with the kids that that it might make them swim faster.”

Wallace is hoping the inaugural event draws between 25 and 50 swimmers.

“That would be an excellent turnout,” Wallace said. “We would like it to be between 25 and 50 to keep the numbers small so we can keep track of them.”


Contact Ernest Bowker at