Ten years ago, the Port Wentworth Chamber of Commerce was interested in creating an event that would support the Stand Up for America Day celebration and raise funds for local veterans. After much research and an assessment of the local assets, the Board decided that adding a bass fishing tournament out of the Houlihan Boat Landing, near the festival site, was the perfect addition to the Stand Up for America Day activities.
The Savannah River Spring Classic, organized by the Port Wentworth Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center and sponsored by many local businesses and organizations, is now celebrating the tenth year of raising funds for local veterans.
The Chamber chose to support the Military Order of the Purple Heart Association, Chapter 596, which is a local Chatham County Chapter that has strong ties to the Port Wentworth Community.
Mrs. Rose Cook and her late husband, Mr. Albert Cook, were Port Wentworth residents that were very committed to supporting all Purple Heart veterans in need. Mr. Cook was a Purple Heart recipient and Mrs. Cook committed long hours of service to the Purple Heart Ladies Auxiliary.
The Cooks were the driving force behind Port Wentworth being given the official designation of “Purple Heart City.” Port Wentworth was the third city in the country to be given the honor.
The tournament attracts many of the best bass fishing anglers in the region.
The tenth annual competition attracted 52 boats and over 100 anglers.
Every year, the Chamber works diligently to make the experience bigger and better for the anglers and many return every year.
The tenth tournament was a two-day event which began Friday evening with a Captain’s Dinner at the Holiday Inn Express banquet facility.
The hotel is a generous supporter of the fund raiser and has hosted the Captain’s dinner for the past four years – this year, the dinner was provided by event sponsor Sweet Tea Grille.
At the Captain’s Dinner, the tournament organizers went over the rules, provided specifics for the Saturday event, thanked sponsors and then introduced the Purple Heart Veterans in attendance to the anglers.
The tides were very low Saturday morning and anglers were instructed to be in the water by 5:30 a.m. at the latest. On Saturday morning, 52 boats crowded into the Savannah River at the Houlihan Boat Landing and motors started at first safe light.
The anglers navigated the waters and battled the heat all in pursuit of catching the largest bass. The total catch limit per boat was five bass. The boat with the largest combined weight of total fish at weigh-in would take the grand prize of $2,000 home.
The first flight of anglers was instructed to return to the Houlihan beginning at 3:50 p.m. with the last flight due back no later than 4:10 p.m.
Two lead trucks - driven by sponsor Memorial Day School athletics - guided the anglers to the Stand Up for America Day festival site where the fishing tournament weigh-in stage was located.
Six cash prizes, including a $2,000 first-place grand prize, were up for grabs.
Lucky boat No. 13, Ronald Welch and Alvaro Alvarado, took home the first-place honor with a tournament record-breaking catch of five fish totaling 17.44 pounds.
The Welch-Alvarado team won the prize for the total weight, but the honor of “Biggest Fish” went to third-place team of Joshua Parrish and Swinton Sikes, who caught a 5.81 pound bass.
The Parrish-Sikes team took home the Big Fish pot of $470 in addition to the third-place prize of $700.
First time participants, Noah Pescitelli (a member of SCAD’s varsity fishing team) and Chance Crumley (a Port Wentworth resident) came in second place with a total weight of 13.18 pounds.
It was not an easy day on the river, but the anglers enjoyed their day. A total of 31 out of 52 boats participated in the weigh-in. The top six teams took home the cash winnings, with the top three teams also receiving tournament trophies.
BOB 106.9 personality Tim Leary served as master of ceremonies.
Proceeds from the Savannah River Spring Classic are donated to the Chatham County Chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.