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Brett Bonnell shows off a big catch during a past Vlasics Classic tournament.

Something fishy will be happening on Saturday, Sept. 18, at the Jackson County Park boat ramp in Scottsboro.

Members of the Tennessee Valley Chapter of the Army Aviation Association of America will convene in their boats and kayaks and compete for cash and other prizes in the 2021 Bob Vlasics Classic Bass Fishing Tournament on Lake Guntersville.

Known casually as the Vlasics Classic, the tournament was founded in 1989 by AAAA member Bob Vlasics of Huntsville, a retired lieutenant colonel who then lived in St. Louis.

Vlasics was considering a new social event for AAAA members that was not golf-centered.

“A lot of us aren’t golfers. A lot of us are fishermen,” said Vlasics, who rallied a group of like-minded anglers for the event held annually and sometimes twice a year at Mark Twain Lake near Hannibal, Missouri.

It created an opportunity for contractors, government employees and members of the military to meet and mingle, he said.

Corporate sponsors contributed money or other prizes and helped make the fishing tournament, simply called the “Quad-A Fishing Tournament,” a fun-filled success.

After the Base Realignment and Closure Commission decided in 1995 to move the Army Aviation Command from St. Louis to Redstone Arsenal, many members of the Lindbergh Chapter of AAAA moved to Huntsville, including Vlasics.

In 1997, the fishing tournament began a new wave locally, and a new name in honor of its founder.

Vlasics said as many as 35 boats have participated in past tournaments, which have been held locally in several places, including Joe Wheeler State Park, Goose Pond Colony, and the Easter Posey Recreation Area at the Arsenal.

And six years ago, the tournament opened up not only to bass boat fishermen, but to kayakers. The two groups compete separately, with a maximum of two people per boat and one person per kayak.

Entry fees and corporate sponsorships provide prize money for winners in the boat and kayak categories. The objective for the boaters is to catch the heaviest fish, while the kayakers go for the longest ones.

Tod Glidewell of Lacey’s Spring, a retired Redstone command sergeant major who now works as a logistics management specialist for the Aviation and Missile Command, has been tournament director since 2012.

Glidewell said the tournament is “a low-key event” that focuses on competition and camaraderie.

Special participants this year will include wounded warriors through Heroes on the Water, a national organization that provides therapeutic programs for veterans, active duty military, first responders and their families.

Participants begin fishing at “first light,” usually around 5:30 to 6 a.m. To encourage early registration, boaters will be eligible to hit the water in order of payment received. Entries should be postmarked by Sept. 12.

Those who show up at the ramp won’t be turned away, but must pay in cash, said Brett Bonnell of Athens, who co-chairs the kayak division with Mitch Delk of Huntsville. Both men work for AMCOM’s field maintenance directorate.

The cost is $60 per boat, with the $400 “Big Fish” award sponsored by Yulista. Additional prize money and door prizes will be awarded to the top five boat teams and top five kayakers.

In the Kayak Bass division, there is a $30 entry fee and a $200 “Big Fish” award, also sponsored by Yulista.

For boaters, the total weight of their five heaviest fish determines their score. For kayakers, the score is determined by the total length of their five longest fish.

Entry fee includes water and a Subway sandwich and drink for lunch per fisherman, Bonnell said.

AAAA membership is not mandatory for the event, he said, but those who place are required to become members and membership fees will be deducted from winnings. (Wounded warriors are exempt from this rule.)

The weigh-in (for boaters) and measuring (for kayakers) will begin at 2 p.m.

Afterward the fish will be released and the fishermen can relax at an awards ceremony and social event featuring “a great spread of food,” Glidewell said. This year’s menu includes gumbo and bratwurst.

The event was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but in the year prior, enough money was left over after prizes were dispersed and expenses were covered to make a $500 donation to the AAAA scholarship fund, he said, adding that he hopes the same will happen this year and in future tournaments.

For more information on the Vlasics Classic, call Bonnell at 777-0404, Delk at 755-0730 or Riley Jacobs at 929-3917.

Entry fees may be made payable to Brett Bonnell and mailed to 24266 Piney Creek Drive, Athens, AL 35613.

In addition to TVC AAAA and Yulista, sponsors of this year’s event include Axient, Boeing, Big Oh’s, Defense Enterprise Solutions, PAE, Parker, Peduzzi, Radiance, Screaming Eagle Aviation Association and Tackle Trap.

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