Daniel Horton Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
In Montana it is hard to come across anyone who doesn’t love the outdoors and, more specifically, who doesn’t love to fish. And when the incentive of a guaranteed good time and a possible $20,000 payout is thrown in, it’s no wonder the Fresno Challenge is growing more successful. Jim Rettig, a member of the Fresno Chapter of Wal leyes Unlimited Board of Directors, was tournament director for last weekend’s Fresno Challenge fishing tournament. As the director, Rettig has run the tournament for eight out of the last 10 years, and as a fisherman, Ret t ig has f i shed the Challenge for the past 20. “There is a lot of incentive here,” Rettig said. “But the thing about this tournament is that it is more of a social event. Eighty percent of the anglers know each other, and it’s a time to get together and do the things we love to do, and that’s catch fish.” Last year 92 teams participated, but this time around the tournament limit of 100 teams was reached with no problem. And with the size of Fresno, 200 boats could have easily hit the water last weekend. Not only did teams invade Fresno from across the Big Sky state, they came from surrounding states as well. Anglers from Wyoming and North Dakota got a taste of Montana fishing, and if more than 100 teams were allowed to cast out, fishermen from Canada would have been in the mix as well. “It’s a big money thing,” Rettig said. “And they come from all over.” Receiving a cash payout to do what one loves is always a good way to draw participants. But the growing reputation of Fresno fishing and the Fresno Chapter of Walleyes Unlimited is also drawing the anglers in. In recent years, walleye as big as 28 to 30 inches and 10 to 13 pounds have been reeled in. Everything Fresno and the tournament have to offer drew John Metcalf in from Boyd. This year was his first year at the challenge, and all the rumors he had heard were true. “It’s a bunch of good people, and they have a great time,” Metcalf said. “If they don’t know you, they are real friendly. You don’t feel like you’re a stranger. Everybody is on the same playing field, and everybody is really respectful and courteous out there on the water. It’s a competition, but it doesn’t feel like it. And the fishing is good, so it sounded like a promising place. I had never fished Fresno.” Children, adults, veterans or rookies the Fresno Challenge takes all anglers. There are father/ child, mother/child and mixed couples teams on the water; this tournament draws them in. On the water last weekend were Kent Schmidt and Todd Riggs from Glasgow, who won anglers of the year in 2008, as well as Travis Scott and Kennie Williams of Lewistown who placed second the last two years and won it three years ago. “We’ve got the top anglers in the state here,” Rettig said. “It’s good competition. But we try to make it a family event for everybody, and I think we have been pretty successful.” This year there were about six teams of adult/child, and approximately 15 mixed-couples teams. For the big-time sports fisherman, the Fresno Challenge is just the beginning of the season. It is the first of eight tournaments on the circuit, and the $20,000 payout gets things started right. With a three-in-one format, fishermen who had a bad day can even get in on the cash. Day 1 and Day 2 are treated as separate tournaments and have separate payouts. Then there is the combined payout, culminating the teams scores from Day 1 and Day 2. And to top it off, there are separate pots for biggest fish, some of which pay in the neighborhood of $1,000. Whether a fisherman is the top angler in the state, or a father/son duo just out for the fun of it, the Fresno Challenge appeals to every fisherman.