About 400 anglers in 197 boats turned out for the Ryan Newman Foundation Sixth Annual Charity Fishing Tournament this month on Lake Norman.
The fishermen tried their best to win a 2011 Nitro Z9 Bass Boat with a Mercury motor and top-of-the-line electronics. Other prizes, included cash, trolling motors, GPS systems, depth finders, rod and reels, outdoor equipment, tackle boxes, gift cards and more - valued at more than $60,000 - were given away.
The top team of Ron Wolfarth, 56, from Oakboro and Larry Inman, 67, of Greensboro took first place. They took home the $40,000 boat package, the cash prize for the senior division and a pile of other prizes.
"It was a rough day on the lake, real windy and real cold first thing," said Wolfarth. "The lake just went up several feet this week. We fished our spots and lucked out."
The big bass of the event weighed 7 pounds 10 ounces and was brought in by the third-place, husband-and-wife team of John and Angela Mayo from Maiden. They won the husband/wife division and took home the trophy for the big fish.
On Friday night and Saturday, the gala dinner and auction annual fundraiser for the Ryan Newman Foundation was sold out.
Officials said the tournament raised more than $300,000 for the foundation. Organizers hoped to top last year's take of $312,000.
The Newman Foundation is dedicated to educating and encouraging people to spay or neuter their pets and to adopt dogs and cats from animal shelters; to educate children and adults about the importance of conservation; and to provide college scholarship funding to students interested in auto racing careers.
Ryan Newman spent time fishing with a special couple from Canada: Paul Volker and Laurel Keating won a contest through WIX Filters - they won a trip to Lake Norman, a new boat, some cash and other prizes. And on top of that, they got to fish with Ryan Newman on Lake Norman.
The big crowd at Blythe Landing came to see renowned fisherman Kevin VanDam and television host Mark Zona, as well as Ryan Newman and other NASCAR notables; and they came to support their favorite bass anglers.
Zona, host of "Zona's Awesome Fishing Show" on the Outdoor Channel, is also well known on television as an emcee for many bass tournaments. VanDam, who appeared on stage with Newman, is the No. 1 bass angler in the world.
VanDam, a Michigan resident, said he is a NASCAR fan, and that's how he got involved in the tournament.
"Ryan and I met when he was in Michigan for a race," he said. "He tries to fish to relax wherever he goes, so I took him small-mouth fishing, and we have been friends for about 10 years. His foundation does great work. This is downtime for me, and my brother lives in Charlotte, so I love coming here. "