Persistence paid off for Jody Wright of Ellenboro and Lester Elton of Forest City, who bested the second-place team by three pounds to win the Ryan Newman Foundation Fifth Annual Charity Fishing Tournament on Dec. 11.
The two beat the Lincoln County team of brothers Christopher and Matt Haywood. Last year the Haywoods beat Wright and Elton by more than a half-pound to win Ryan Newman's Ranger bass boat.
Wright and Elton will share a fully rigged Nitro Z9 Bass Boat and a list of other prizes worth close to $50,000.
"We got beat by the Haywoods last year and I was holding my breath when they got in line for the weigh-in," said Wright. "But we had enough to beat them this time."
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Wright and Elton's 16-pound-13-ounce limit included the big bass of the day, weighing 5 pounds 8 ounces.
The tournament paid for the first 12 places, which was actually more than 12 because there was a three-way tie for 12th.
NASCAR driver Martin Truex Jr. took the celebrity trophy with a nice 4-pound-11-ounce bass. Truex took some jabs from anglers because he fished alone; nobody saw him catch the fish.
NASCAR celebrities, pro anglers, Nashville stars and 128 teams joined to raise money for the Newman Foundation.
The NASCAR notables were Truex, Mike Skinner, Reagan Smith, Jeff Smith, Tony Gibson, Kyle Petty, Larry McReynolds and of course Ryan Newman.
Newman fished with a father-and-son team from Indiana: Jack and Jake Spears. The Spearses won a promotional contest with Bass Pro in September.
Pro anglers who fished in the Celebrity division and were partners with the NASCAR anglers were: Todd Auten, Keith Poche, Lou Consoli, Michelle Armstrong, Casey Ashley, Marty Robinson, Jami Fralick and Davy Hite.
Singer Bridgette Tatum and songwriters Kendell Marvel and Danny Myrick represented Nashville.
It was a tough day of fishing; only 65 teams weighed fish. Forty-three limits were weighed for a total of 285 fish and 553.4 pounds. That was a little better than last year's totals: 261 bass weighing 536 pounds.
Crankbaits, dropshot rigs and jigs were the most popular baits according to the anglers.
I found the Cabiz team - Steve Wisdom and Joe Pacholec - over a brush pile close to an island.
Steve told me, "We have been on this spot all day and are catching lots of bass and a few white perch."
"We had our limit early and we are trying to cull our limit," he said. "Dropshot has been our best bait, and they hit everything from a seven-inch worm to a two-inch crappie grub."
Some of the pros really struggled. I caught up with several on the lake.
"We don't even have our limit," yelled Timmy Horton.
Popular Lake Wylie pro Jason Quinn was near Reeds Creek. "We caught 50 to 60, but almost all of them are short," he said.
The tournament was sponsored by Bass Pro Shops and facilitated by BASS. Eric Winter, Concord Bass Pro Shops manager, said, "Bass Pro is very excited to be a part of the Newman Foundation tournament, and we are really happy to be able to donate the Nitro Z9 boat for the grand prize."
On Dec. 10, the Newmans hosted the Fifth Annual Ryan Newman Foundation Gala Dinner and Auction at the Newman farm, where silent and live auctions were held. Lots of NASCAR memorabilia, works of art and other items were sold, and the Newmans used the venue to announce plans for a rescue ranch on an 87-acre site near the farm.
Bridgette Tatum, Kendell Marvel and Danny Myrick took the stage to entertain the crowd with several country songs. About 600 guests enjoyed the huge buffet, open bar and entertainment.