Tennessee boat dealer offering $100,000 prize to angler who catches tagged bass in South Holston Lake

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SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – A local boat dealer is giving one lucky angler a chance to hook the fish of a lifetime this month.

According to Watson’s Marine Manager Rex Pendergrass, a smallmouth bass named “Ol Walter 2.0” will be tagged and released into the South Holston Lake.

If anyone catches the bass between 12:01 a.m. on June 12 and 11:59 p.m. on June 13, they will win $100,000.

Aaron Greene, owner of Watson’s Marine, told News Channel 11 that Ol’ Walter will be released within a day of the start of the event to ensure that it is not caught before the prize would count. The fish will be released at an undisclosed location on the lake.

The prize is provided through a “hole-in-one” insurance policy that allows the giveaway to take place, according to Greene.

A phone number will be posted before the start of the event that can be called at any time if Ol’ Walter is caught.

Pendergrass states the bass must be caught with a rod and reel, but no registration fee is required. Anglers may use live bait or lures in pursuit of Ol’ Walter. Greene said the fish must be alive and shown to either himself or management at Watson’s Marine to be verified.

Greene said he wanted to hold the event to encourage people to go fishing and also out of nostalgia. In the 1980s, a previous Ol’ Walter was released into the lake with the same prize offered. Greene said he fondly remembers the excitement around the event and wanted to recreate it.

The search for Ol’ Watson was set on June 12-13 in part because June 12 is Tennessee’s Free Fishing Day, during which anyone may fish without a license. However, a fishing license will be required if you plan to catch the prize fish on Sunday, June 13.

The TWRA told News Channel 11, the Free Fishing Day initiative is a great way to introduce Tennesseans, and others, to the sport.

“Free Fishing Day is a great time for families to get out and enjoy the outdoors and go fishing. It’s for everybody in the family, both resident or non-resident. So it’s a great time for people to get out and fish without a license,” said Jason Harmon, Communications Manager for TWRA.

There are not many rules to be followed on Free Fishing Day, but there are limitations, Harmon pointed out.

“Other than following the regulations for size limits and that kind of thing, you don’t need a license, just go out and have a good time with the family, and that’s all on Saturday, June 12, and if you want to fish the following week, it’s also Free Fishing Week so June 12, through Friday, June 18, kids can fish for free, and you can find more information about that at tnwildlife.org as well,” he said.

Anglers are expected to flock to bodies of water across the state on Free Fishing Day, so the TWRA recommends safety measures.

“If you’re enjoying Free Fishing Day this year, and you’re on a bank somewhere just make sure you know who’s around you when you go to cast, don’t hook your brother or your sister back behind. You know, just make sure you know what you’re doing there, and if you’re out on the water on a boat, always make sure you wear your life jacket. It’s very important to stay safe, wear your life jacket, but just have fun. Just have fun this Saturday, June 12,” Harmon said.

As for the anglers itching to get out on the lake that weekend, few are as excited to get out on the water alongside his daughter and search for Ol’ Walter 2.0 as Joe Cross.

“Well, the $100,000 doesn’t hurt, and it’s another day on the water with my daughter, so it’ll be a fun day, fun weekend,” he said.

News Channel 11 asked Cross what would happen if he actually caught Ol’ Walter.

“After the heart attack? I don’t know, I’d have split with [his daughter] number one, but maybe buy a boat,” Cross said. “It’s going to be a fun day. We’ll see how it goes and hopefully, somebody will luck up and capture Ol’ Walter.”

No registration is required to join in the hunt for Ol’ Walter, but fishermen are warned to get to the water early to grab a spot.

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