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Junior bass anglers show out at AGFF Commissioners Cup 

BY Randy Zellers

ON 05-08-2024


HOT SPRINGS — Seventy-four teams consisting of anglers aged 8 to 18 hit the water with their boat captains Saturday to test their mettle against Lake Hamilton at the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation’s sixth annual Commissioners’ Cup bass fishing tournament presented by Xpress Boats. In the end, it was a single angler from the Junior Division that posted the heaviest five-fish limit. Bennett Bullard dropped an impressive 14.40 pounds of fish on the scales, anchored by a 4.70-pound kicker, the largest single fish of the tournament.

Topwater lures like the Heddon Zara Spook were the lures of choice for many teams, but Bullard’s biggest bass fell for a YUM Money Minnow swimbait.

Ely Hagans and Cole Pennington of South Side High School in Bee Branch took home the top prize in the senior division with a five-fish limit weighing 13.92 pounds, posting the big bass for the senior division, a 4.66-pound largemouth. In addition to a huge prize pack, the pair won $3,000 worth of scholarships from the current members of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

All competitors fished with a captain who was responsible for safe handling of the boat but was not allowed to aid the anglers in fishing for and landing bass.

Henley and Harbor Hays sorted through 35 bass during their day of fishing with their boat captain and father, Dylan Hays, culling up to a five-fish limit of 9.91 pounds to take third place in the Junior Division as well as the top female team for both divisions on the day, scoring them even more tackle and prizes at the awards ceremony.

Five-fish limits were plentiful on Hamilton, with 32 senior division teams and 17 junior teams bringing a full stinger to the scales. The difference for most teams was finding that one big bite to set them apart from the competition.

Tyler Lawrence, director of events and programming for the AGFF, said this year’s tournament was the largest to date and was excited to see what next year has in store.

“We had more than 300 spectators drop by the event during the junior and senior weigh-ins, and most stayed for the whole show,” Lawrence said. “We’re so grateful for Xpress Boats’ continued commitment to the event. Their sponsorship allows for the tournament to be free entry for all of the kids. We also had more sponsors and donors for the event than ever before, giving away more than $15,000 in prizes in addition to $6,000 in scholarships given by the commissioners, Academy Sports and Outdoors and Flywheel Energy.”





Bennett Bullard was awarded the day’s big-bass award, presented by Steve “Wildman” Wilson from Bass Pro Shops. Photo courtesy AGFF.

From Left to Right: Tournament emcee Luke Dunkin poses with Senior Division winners Ely Hagans and Cole Pennington and AGFF director of events and programming Tyler Lawrence. Photo courtesy AGFF.

Henley and Harbor Hays fished with their father, Dylan Hays, to take third place in the Junior Division as well as top overall female competitors. Photo courtesy Melinda Mize.

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