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Big fish, lots of money

Wabasha bass tournament benefits hospital

By John Weiss

weiss@postbulletin.com

WABASHA — Strong winds May 5-6 didn’t stop bass anglers from fishing the Mississippi River in a tournament that produced many limits of big bass — and nearly $120,000 for St. Jude’s Childrens Research Hospital.

Zumbro Valley Bassmasters, made up of bass anglers from the Rochester area, raised the money through a fundraiser dinner and anglers getting pledges for the Dick Hiley Memorial St. Jude Bass Classic tournament, that had its headquarters in Wabasha. Anglers could fish pools 4 and 5, from Minneiska to Red Wing.

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The group began helping with a tournament for the Memphis hospital about eight years ago, though that was in Red Wing. It took it over this year, said Tim Domaille of Rochester, who was a tournament director.

In all, 47 teams entered and many had eight-fish limits both days, he said. The winning team of Aaron LaRocque of Wabasha and Joe Hall of Lake City came in with 46.02 pounds.

Wind hampered fishing because anglers couldn’t always go where they wanted, Domaille said. But they were able to find plenty of hot bites, using either Texas-rigged tube jigs or jigs tipped with a porkrind trailer, he said.

The fundraiser dinner netted $17,500, he said. Then anglers got pledges, with the top team allowed to take off first, and a chance to get the best fishing spot, Dommaille said.

The top team of Chris Winchester and John Bentley had $11,000.

In its nine years, the tournament has raised more than a half-million dollars, he said.

The top teams, who got the biggest share of the $20,000 purse, were LaRocque and Hall; Rick Billings of Rochester and Tom Hoeft of Byron with 44.3 pounds and Doug Stanton of Winona and Bill Jennison of Oronoco with 43.48 pounds.

Besides seven teams with 40 or more pounds, 11 had 35 pounds or more.

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Domaille caught the big bass, a 4.88-pound largemouth, less than 30 minutes before the tournament ended.

• More Outdoors, C6

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