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Fish for fun, large dollars at new Lake Mead event

Lake Mead is no stranger to bass tournaments. It hosts numerous local and regional tournaments every year.

Among them is the prestigious Western Outdoor News (WON) U.S. Open, which is looking forward to hosting its 39th annual tournament on Lake Mead in October. And in 1971, the reservoir welcomed the inaugural Bassmaster Classic, which has since become competitive bass fishing’s equivalent of the Super Bowl.

Now Lake Mead has been named as the location for one of eight qualifying tournaments for the new Johnny Morris Bass Pro Shops U.S. Open National Bass Fishing Amateur Team Championships.

That is quite a mouthful, but the total payout is equally large at $4.3 million in cash and prizes. The grand prize is $1 million, and the tournament champion also will drive home in a new Toyota Tundra with a Nitro Z20 bass boat in tow. The competitor who catches the biggest bass weighed in during the championship will also win a new bass boat.

Not bad for an amateur-only team tournament, and no, that is not a typo. But there is a catch, as well as a long-term benefit.

For registration purposes, an amateur is defined as someone who “has not competed as a boater/pro in a MLF Major or BASS Elite Series event within the last two years immediately preceding the BPO (Bass Pro Open) event being entered.”

If you have ever paid an entry fee greater than $2,500, or if you have lifetime tournament earnings greater than $100,000, you don’t qualify.

In other words, just about anybody who fishes can qualify for these events, but here is the catch. To register, you also must be the registered owner of one of seven brands of boats, all available through Bass Pro Shops: Tracker, Ranger, Nitro, Mako, Sun Tracker, Triton and Tahoe. Your boat also needs to have a fully functioning live well with aeration.

The opportunity to compete for a chance at the million-dollar payout is Morris’ way of giving back to his customers while celebrating Bass Pro’s 50th anniversary. It is also a way to raise money for fisheries conservation.

“The reasons we’re having this tournament is one, to celebrate our history, to thank our great customers, have fun, but also to do some great work for conservation,” said Morris. “We’re inviting you to not only participate in this tournament but (also) help with much needed habitat to grow big fish in all of our reservoirs around the country.”

Here is the long-term benefit.

One-third of your entry fee will go directly to conservation through the Fish Habitat Initiative, which supports habitat work in freshwater lakes. Then Bass Pro and the folks at Toyota will each match that with another third each. So, an amount equal to your registration fee goes to conservation efforts that will help ensure fishing is there for your kids and theirs.

Registration is limited to 250 boats at each of the eight qualifying tournaments, with the top 40 finishers moving on to the championship event to be held Nov. 19-21 on Missouri’s Table Rock Lake, and their entry fee will be paid for.

This is a team event; you cannot compete as an individual. Morris hopes to see these tournaments filled with family teams and fishing buddies.

Scheduled for April 24, the Lake Mead qualifier is the third event on the tournament schedule, with the 24-hour registration period set to begin Feb. 10. That means you have time to find a friend with the right brand of boat. Details can be found online at basspro.com/usopen.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. Find him on Facebook at @dougwritesoutdoors. He can be reached at intheoutdoorslv@gmail.com

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