One of bass fishing’s longest-running charity tournaments
In 1975, a group of bass clubs in the Quad Cities area held the first annual Mississippi Valley Bass Clubs Tournament for Charity. None of the angler’s that participated probably dreamed that the event would be going stronger than ever today.
In the earliest years, the tournament started as a “club challenge” among the local bass clubs. The plan was for the winning club to host the following year’s tournament. The hosting plan didn’t pan out, so a group of club anglers, including Don VanAcker of Moline, changed the framework for the event.
Now the tournament field would be comprised of five-boat teams with a total of 10 anglers. Each team member was responsible for selling raffle tickets as a means for fundraising. The raffle prize? A new boat. Proceeds from the event benefitted the Foundation for Crippled Children and Adults of Rock Island County, an organization that would later be named the Easter Seals Foundation.
At the peak of the five-boat team format, the Mississippi Valley Bass Clubs’ Tournament for Charity drew about 30 teams and 150 boats. Charlie Foy of Milan and Lloyd Bartling of Davenport directed the tournament during this time.
In 2000, Jeff Roman of Atkinson assumed the role of tournament director and decided to try a more traditional team or “buddy” format. The tournament became known as the Mississippi Valley Bass Clubs’ Open Buddy Bass Tournament.
In September of 2002, the Easter Seal Foundation serving Henry, Mercer and Rock Island Counties discontinued its affiliation with National Easter Seals, Inc. The volunteer Board of Directors voted 22-0 to maintain its local autonomy and to become the Children?s Therapy Center of the Quad Cities.
Roman worked to raise the tournament’s appeal and fundraising impact. Along with the tireless efforts of W.K. Juncker, Resource Director for the Children’s Therapy Center, the raffles, silent auctions, and sponsorships have grown significantly. Bass professional emcees became part of the weigh-in, and the list of notable bass anglers who have worked the crowd is second to none. Ray Scott, founder of the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society. Bassmaster Classic Champion Alton Jones. Former Classic champ and B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year Mark Davis. Mark Menendez. Kelly Jordon. Harold Allen. Todd Faircloth. All have made the trip to Albany, Illinois to entertain the crowd and do play-by-play as the competitors weighed their catch and received their awards.
The Children’s Therapy Center of the Quad Cities Charity Bass Tournament has become a regional fixure on the tournament landscape and a symbol of the good work bass fishermen can do in the community. Anglers come from Iowa, Illinois, around the midwest and beyond (there is an annual “Furthest Traveled Award”) to compete for the annual bragging rights that go with winning this prestigious event. And while not every team can win, they all have a great time and gain the satisfaction of knowing they’ve helped provide services to children in need. The tournament has raised over a half million dollars since that first “club challenge” in 1975.