MILLION DOLLAR BASS: On Saturday at Lake Thunderbird, anglers have a chance to get rich
On Saturday, there will be a largemouth bass swimming in Lake Thunderbird that is worth a million dollars. What are the chances of catching it?
Well, it is supposedly 50 times better than winning the lottery, according to odds makers, which in this case is the insurance company which will be paying the $1 million in case some angler hits the jackpot.
For $100, anglers can enter Saturday's "Reel A Million" fishing tournament for a chance to catch the largemouth bass that will be tagged with a $1 million prize.
Twenty-four other bass will have tags attached that can be redeemed for a YETI Cooler, which will still be honored even after the event if caught during this lake season by someone who entered the “Reel A Million” tournament.
The million dollar bass, however, must be caught during tournament hours which will be from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
In addition, cash prizes of $500 for the largest bass caught during the tournament and $300 for the largest fish in other species will be given away.
The “Reel A Million” fishing tournament is the idea of Jessica and Robby Elliott, owners of Calypso Cove Marina in Clear Bay Cove on Lake Thunderbird.
The primary purpose of the tournament is to get more people to come to Lake Thunderbird and Lake Thunderbird State Park, Jessica said.
As rumors persisted that some state parks might have to cut costs and even close due to the state's budget crisis, the Elliotts decided there needed to be an event to showcase Lake Thunderbird and the state park.
“We are looking to drive traffic to one of Oklahoma's most beautiful state parks and the closest one to the metro,” Jessica said. “We love it there. We want people to know you can have a wonderful stay-cation right here. You don't have to drive three hours to go somewhere.”
Ten percent of the tournament proceeds will be donated to the Oklahoma Department of Tourism for state parks.
“We know the state park system as a whole is hurting,” Jessica said. “The game rangers will tell you, the more (Lake Thunderbird State Park) is used, the less likely they are to close it. Use it or lose it. We want to use it.”
Lake Thunderbird is a special place for the Elliotts. Both were avid boaters who met on the lake eight years ago. They both loved boating, skiing and wakeboarding and two years later were married. Two years ago, the Norman couple decided to buy Calypso Cove Marina.
“We have always had a slip at Calypso Cove and loved that marina, the whole lifestyle,” Jessica said.
It's a family business.
“My mother-in-law is the day-to-day operations manager,” Jessica said. “My sister operates the store. My husband does the maintenance, and I do the marketing.”
When the idea of a fishing tournament to showcase the state park was first hatched, a top prize of $25,000 was pitched. Jessica didn't think it was a big enough.
“Million dollars is a showstopper,” she said. “It gets people talking.”
She is not allowed to say how many anglers have already entered the tournament, but acknowledged it's created a buzz.
“I have had people knock on my door at my house and be like, 'So how does this work?'”
Sometime this week before the tournament, state wildlife officials will electrofish Lake Thunderbird to shock bass to the surface. They then will tag 25 fish and release them in different areas of the lake.
Anglers can enter the tournament up until Saturday's 6 a.m. start time at Calypso Cove Marina or online at www.reelamillion.com. Weigh-in will be at Calypso Cove Marina throughout the day with an after-party at Thunderbird Casino.
As far as the odds of catching that million dollar fish, the chances are better at Thunderbird than it would be at lakes with higher bass populations like Grand and Konawa, said Kurt Kuklinski, supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Fisheries Research Lab in Norman.
But with tens of thousands of bass swimming in Lake Thunderbird, it still would be akin to winning the lottery, he said.
"It's pretty slim," Kuklinski said.
Jessica is rooting for some lucky angler to catch the million-dollar bass.
“I want somebody to win it,” she said. “I paid for the insurance. Why would you not want somebody to win it?”
ABOUT LAKE THUNDERBIRD STATE PARK
Near Norman, Lake Thunderbird State Park offers a variety of water activities and recreation for individuals of all ages.
In addition to water sports, there are equestrian, mountain biking, hiking, and nature trails as well an archery range.
Accommodations at the park include more than 200 RV sites and campsites as well as playground and picnic areas.
ABOUT CALYPSO COVE MARINA
A full-service, family-owned and operated marina located in Clear Bay Cove on Lake Thunderbird, it offers wet and dry storage for boats and RV, pontoon boat rental, water sport rentals, and a store with fuel, fishing gear, food, beverages and other lake necessities.