More Reason Than Bass For Volunteers Behind Wolfson Children’s Hospital Tournament

Preston and Katrina Clark won the 2011 tournament

Although he holds the record for the second biggest bass ever caught in the history of the Wolfson Children’s Hospital Benefit Bass Tournament, Brian Seay admittedly is not much of a bass fisherman. He has a more personal reason for serving as tournament director for the 23rd annual tournament Saturday on the St. John’s River.

“My son was in that hospital and he passed away after a couple of years, so I have my own attachment. We spent a lot of time in that hospital in his short life and the care we received was astronomical,” said Seay.

Seay said a strange turn of events highlighted by that big bass led him to become involved as a volunteer with the tournament.

“I am no bass fishing expert, but I went out with a guy who was pretty good and we were fishing in Rodman. He said drop your line there and I did. That fish weighed 11-pounds-plus,” he recalled, adding that it also caused him to catch some grief from his co-workers.

“All of the guys at work live and breathe this stuff and when I told them about it, they said, ‘You went out there and did what?’ I got a little plaque and I put it in my office. Sometimes I will take it out and show it to those guys,” he said with a chuckle.

“But my drive and my motivation for this tournament is not so much for the bass fishing as it is raising money for those kids,” Seay said. “I consider it a big honor to be involved.”

The tournament began more than two decades ago when the director of the Plant Facilities Department of Baptist Medical Center Downtown in Jacksonville, along with several outside contractors, wanted to play a major role in funding capital improvements and technological advancements for the Children’s Hospital. They created the tournament with the goal of making it the largest in the state raising money for kids.

In 2010 the tournament drew 422 boats and last year the count was over 460 boats. Bob McNally, outdoors writer for The Florida Times Union in Jacksonville, calls it the largest single-day bass tournament in Florida.

“Actually,” said Seay, “we don’t know of a bigger tournament in the Southeast.”

The tournament is actually three events over three days, starting with 14th annual the Lads and Lassies Tournament Thursday. Entry fee for Thursday competition is $70 a boat with an optional $10 entry for the Big Bass Pot.

Prizes for Lads and Lassies range from $1,000 for first place down to $100 for 10th place, with first Big Bass earning $1,000 and second Big Bass worth $500.

The VIP Tournament on Friday is strictly for show to allow sponsors and other dignitaries a chance to get on the water and go fishing.

Entry fee for the 23nd annual Wolfson Children’s Hospital Benefit Bass Tournament Saturday is $90 per boat with an additional $10 per boat for the big bass competition. The tournament has a guaranteed purse of $37,000 in cash and prizes, including $10,000 for first place, $4,000 for second and $3,000 for third, on down to $100 for anglers who finish 51st-55th..

There is also a $5,000 prize for the largest bass weighed in and $1,000 each for second and third big bass of the tournament. Bringing in the exact weight listed in a sealed envelope will earn a huge bonus.

The tournament buys an insurance policy and places a pre-determined weight in the envelope. If an angler weighs in the big bass at the exact weight in the envelope he receives an additional $15,000. If the second big bass matches the weight in another envelop that angler gets $10,000.

In addition to all the potential prize money, somebody will go home with a brand new bass boat. Tickets are being sold for a drawing following Saturday’s weigh-in for a new fully rigged 2012 Bullet 21XD Bass Boat with a Mercury 225 Pro XS OptiMax Motor, courtesy of Bullet boats and Mercury Marine.
“We raised right at $150,000 last year,” said Seay. “After the tournament we hold a big dinner in Jacksonville for the hospital and present them with the money.”

The volunteers who put on the tournament all have full-time jobs, Seay noted, but they all feel it is worth it just to help the children in the hospital.

“It has been very rewarding to me,” he said. “It’s just a huge way to give something back to the hospital.”


Wolfson Children’s Hospital Benefit Bass Tournament

Sat, May 19, 2011

St. Johns River

Palatka City Docks