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1st time tournament angler wins Tracy Byrd Big Bass Tournament
By Patty Lenderman

The8th Annual Tracy Byrd Big Bass Tournament kicked off March 29, 2003 at Twin Dikes Marina, Lake Sam Rayburn. This event directly benefits the Children's Miracle Network (CMN). The money raised at this bass tournament and the concert that follows plus the golf tournament held the next day means a lot of money for the kids at CMN. Last year $130,000 was raised and donated and has helped to buy a lot of equipment including hyperberic chambers used for brain damaged patients.

It was a lot of fun for the 536 participants with $100,000 in cash & prizes given away through 5 big bass places paid each hour plus the top 40 overall places being awarded. It's a whole different game in an hourly big bass tournament than in conventional tournaments where you have a five fish limit total weight at the end of the day. In an hourly big bass event, you've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to play 'em at the official scales. A five pound bass may be at the top of one hour and at the bottom of the next, but Dave Concienne (tournament director) and "The Ranch" 102.7 FM did a great job of keeping everyone informed with updated information so the competitors could make those kinds of informed decisions.

The tournament started out very chilly with temps in the 40's but feeling like 30's with the wind chill factor. That didn't daunt the anglers or the spectators who came to enjoy the event. Wind gusts in the 20's kept the day very chilly and hard for the anglers to fish any main lake areas. An 8.44 lb bass weighed in first hour by Donny Pickard was a great way to start the day, but by the 10:00-11:00 hour top weight was bested by Melodie Hillhouse of Spurger, TX with an 8.85 lb sow. This was Melodie's first tournament, biggest fish ever caught and she's only been fishing for one year!

After the weigh in, Tracy Byrd introduced to the crowd a four year old little miracle named Catherine Escagne. Catherine was in a terrible car wreck at the age of 18 months and had a lot of brain damage. The doctors did not give much hope for survival, let alone future quality of life if she did live. Through the miracles of modern medicine, the Children's Miracle Network and its doctors and staff, she is now talking, dressing herself, and she recently underwent another surgery on her legs and may very well be walking by next year. The proceeds from events such as this has helped to buy the medical equipment necessary to make these modern miracles happen. Tracy pledged to do what he can for as long as he can to continue to fund the Children's Miracle Network that makes such differences in the lives of the children who need that kind of care.

Overall standings:
1st - lbs - 203 Ranger 519SVX Bass Boat w/200 EFI Mercury Outboard - Melodie Hillhouse (Woodville, TX)
2nd - lbs - Kawasaki 4 Wheeler - Donnie Pickard (Bridge City, TX)
3rd - lbs - $2,000 Academy Gift Certificate - Roy Sanford (Silsbee, TX)
4th - lbs - $1,500 Academy Gift Certificate - Kenny Jones (Etoile, TX)
5th - lbs - $1,000 Academy Gift Certificate - Gay Norton (Vidor, TX)

After the tournament Tracy Byrd put on a great concert by a beautiful lake on the fairway behind Rayburn Country Resort. Despite the chilly weather, Tracy & the band seemed to have a good time playing at this informal concern without the fancy lights and sound systems. They sounded really good and everybody enjoyed themselves. This is the second concert in the 8 years of his homecomings and is sure not to be his last. Tracy and the band played a great medley of old favorites as well as new releases that had the crowd cheering for more.

Tournament Sponsors include: The Coushatta Indian Tribe, Grand Casino Coushata, The Beaumont Enterprise, Ranger Boats, Mercury Outboards, Academy Sports & Outdoors, BASF Forestry, All Star Graphite Rods, Rayburn Country, Justin Boots, Superior Tire & Service, Wrangler & Mossy Oak brand camo.

Ranch 102.7 FM Sponsors Include: The Stump Restaurant, McDonalds, Rayburn Country, East Texas Federal Credit Union, Terry's Marine in Nacogdoches, Casa Ole, Jasper Outboard, Dawson Marine, Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits, A-Z Tire in Jasper.

1st place winner Melodie Hillhouse brought in her biggest bass ever weighing 8.85 lbs in her first tournament that won her a 2003 Ranger 519SVX with a Mercury 200 EFI outboard

Donnie Pickard took 2nd place with his 8.44 lb bass that he traded in for a Kawasaki 4-wheeler
< photos by Patty Lenderman >

Tracy Byrd introduced 4 year old Catherine Escagne to the anglers and spectators, telling her tragic story and how money donated to the Children's Miracle Network has helped to make a big difference in her life

Tracy and his band put on a great concert at Rayburn Country after the tournament

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