The Jim Ledbetter Casting Out Cancer Bass Tournament was held on Lake Norman March 12.
Well over $800,000 has been raised for cancer research. This was the annual Jim Ledbetter and V Foundation tournament hosted by the Balls Creek Bassmasters Fishing Club and Foothills Marine. Hundreds of volunteers, thousands of hours of time and lots of hard work have gone into making this event the largest charity bass tournament and the longest running fishing tournament in North Carolina.
The tournament is named for Jim Ledbetter, legendary television fishing show host and professional angler from the Catawba County area. The V Foundation is named after the late Jim Valvano, the basketball coach who led N. C. State to a men's basketball national championship in 1983. Both men died of cancer.
Ledbetter, who died in 2002, started this charity tournament 25 years ago. The tournament joined forces with the V Foundation because every dollar donated to the organization goes directly to cancer research.
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Ledbetter's wife, Dee, was in the audience this year.
"I have been here for every tournament and am proud to be involved in such a great event," she said. "Jim would be so happy."
A few anglers have fished in every event for the 25 years. One angler, Wayne Baker, has fished them all even though he's never won. "I came in second and third but never won the big prize. It's all for a good cause, though," said Baker, of Conover.
Earlier this month, 205 boats roared away from Queens Landing in Mooresville in search of five big bass and the chance to win a Skeeter Bass Boat from Foothills Marine in Morganton.
Longtime fishing buddies Mark Brown, of Charlotte, and Wade Smith, of Huntersville, took home the $30,000, fully-rigged bass boat. They weighed in 16.76 pounds of bass.
"We spent the whole day in Cornelius Creek and used spinnerbaits, jigs and shallow running crankbaits," said Smith. "We fished windy banks."
The second-place team, Stacy Richards and Brian Triplett, won $2,000. Third-place team from Denver, Roger Pope and Scott Hamrick, won $1,600. Pope and Hamrick won the event in 2008 and 2007.
Glen and Steven Sparrow, Clover, S.C., took the parent/child class with 10.48 pounds.
Kevin and Tedi Birchfield drove through a snowstorm from Roan Mountain, Tenn., to take the couples' division and 11th place with 12.14 pounds.
The fourth-place winners also won the senior citizen division. Carl Meyers, Morganton, and Bruce Rahrer, Boone, had five bass that weighed 13.06 pounds.