Insurance requirement stops weekly bass tournament on Lake Hefner
Lucky Lure Tackle's weekly Tuesday night jackpot bass tournaments on Lake Hefner have been canceled.
David Hughes, owner of the Oklahoma City tackle store, was told that he must buy an insurance policy to cover the city from any liability if the tournaments were to continue. The weekly jackpot tournaments had been held for seven years on the lake.
“I think it is a little bit senseless because they got all kinds of other events that nobody is buying a permit for much less buying an insurance policy for,” Hughes said. “It is pretty aggravating to me.”
Jennifer McClintock, public information officer for the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust, said requiring an insurance policy for such activities on the city's public lakes and properties is routine.
“Any business that wishes to offer an event to the public and charge a fee for said event (including parks and lakes) is required to have a city permit and event insurance,” McClintock said in an email to The Oklahoman.
“This protects the city and the taxpayers from liability should an accident occur during the event. This is true for sporting events (5Ks, ball games, etc.), as well as concerts, exercise programs (i.e. cross fit and boot camps) and other events.”
Even though the bass tournaments have been going on for seven years, McClintock said city officials weren't aware of them until recently.
Lisa Hubbell, the trust specialist for the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust, said it would be different if it were just a social gathering and not a tournament where money was involved.
“If they were just fishing as part of their fishing permit, we wouldn't care,” she said. “But as soon as you pull it into an actual tournament, it's an organized event. From the city's standpoint, we don't want to be exposed to liability.”
McClintock said private groups hosting events such as a birthday party or reunion who are not charging an admission can rent certain facilities without buying insurance.
But if 75 people are attending, then a special event permit is required along with insurance, she said.
Certain groups, such as the OKC Boathouse Foundation and OKC Yacht Club, have long-term leases with the city, and all permitting and insurance are part of the lease agreements, McClintock said.
"The city processes hundreds of event and permitting requests annually on multiple properties, so this is part of our standard operating procedure," she said.
Gene Gilliland, B.A.S.S. conservation director and longtime bass tournament angler from Norman, said most bass tournament organizations require liability insurance of their members as part of their boater's insurance.
But seldom have bass tournament organizers encountered similar issues at other lakes in the state, he said.
“The Corps of Engineers issues permits (for bass tournaments) on all the Corps lakes and they don't require that sort of thing,” he said. “I'm sure there are other situations around the country where they do, but most lake authorities don't.”
Hughes decided to end the weekly tournaments rather than buy insurance.
“There is no telling how many hundreds of dollars it would cost to cover one night a week on Lake Hefner,” he said.
There was not much money at stake in the weekly bass tournaments on Lake Hefner. The entry fee was only $20. They were similar to weekly poker nights among friends.
“When we first opened, we started these things up,” Hughes said. “It's just a good little get-together. We will have anywhere from 10 to 20 boats go out there and go fishing and have a good time.
"A little bit of money. A lot of camaraderie. It's a competitive, little fun thing. Now the city has just ruined it.”