Stan Cullipher of Malvern and Ed Jones of Hot Springs both landed prize fish Saturday in the $50,000 Hot Springs Fishing Challenge. Both caught largemouth bass to take home cash in the Challenge, which lasts through July 31 on Lake Hamilton and Lake Catherine.
Forty-seven tagged fish, including Big Al, which is worth the $10,000 top prize, remain to be caught by the deadline.
Saturday’s first cash fish was caught in the morning by Malvern’s Cullipher, who won $500. Jones’ $1,000 bass was caught Saturday night during a club tournament.
Cullipher caught the $500 bass across from Majestic Lodge Road using a Texas-rigged creature bait, which is somewhat like a plastic worm but has multiple arms, tails or tentacles. Jones landed his largemouth bass in the area of the first bridge on Highway 7 South near the Kahuna Bay marina.
Saturday’s two catches brings the number of fish caught to six out of the original 53 released on April 30. These were the first bass caught in the Challenge.
So far two bass, two bluegill, one walleye, and one crappie have been redeemed for $3,750 in prize money, according to Steve Arrison, CEO of Visit Hot Springs, which is sponsoring the Fishing Challenge. There are still 47 tagged fish on the loose worth $46,250, including Big Al worth $10,000. No money fish have been caught on Lake Catherine.
Cullipher, a regular on the Bass Fishing League (BFL) circuit, did not realize that he was in the money until he was back home in Malvern Saturday at about 1 p.m. He usually releases the fish he catches, but he had a friend who wanted any fish he caught on Saturday. Thus, the money fish was discovered back in Malvern when his friend emptied his live well.
Cullipher said he usually fishes on DeGray Lake but since his brother and father were fishing with him, and they are not big fisherman, they decided Saturday morning to try Lake Hamilton to see if they could catch one of the Fishing Challenge tagged fish. They joked on the way to Hot Springs on how they would split the money.
“Fish No. 22, which we call Big Al, is still out there,” Arrison said. “Whoever lands Big Al will get $10,000. Plus, the $5,000 fish, one $2,500 fish and 18 $1,000 fish are still out there waiting to be caught. Not to mention 17 more fish worth $500 apiece and nine more worth $250 each.”
The Hot Springs Fishing Challenge is open to anyone with a fishing pole and a valid Arkansas fishing license, Arrison said. “The fish that we released into the two lakes April 30 were nine largemouth bass; nine bluegill, nine catfish, nine striped bass, nine crappie, and eight walleye.”
The fish have tags with a phone number and a prize number on them. When one of the prize-winning fish is caught the angler must call the phone number and present the fish with the tag attached.
“Anybody with a fishing pole can win, no matter what their age, skill level. It doesn’t matter if the fish is caught while fishing from a boat, from the bank or from a dock. Kids under 16 don’t have to have a valid Arkansas fishing license, but those age 16 and older need the valid license,” Arrison said.
For more information, call Steve Arrison at 501-321-2027.