In the annual Hot Springs Fishing Challenge in Arkansas, anglers can win cash prizes for tagged fish they catch, but one angler almost overlooked the windfall.
That little bass Stacey Penny caught on Lake Hamilton, Ark., last weekend grew a whole lot bigger after it had been in the cooler, according to the state's wildlife agency.
Penny, of Hot Springs, was fishing Sunday and tossed the little bass in his cooler with some other fish without a second thought. It was later when he noticed the valuable purple tag.
After spotting the purple tag, Penny called the number on it and found out it was worth $1,000.
It was the seventh prize fish in the 2017 $86,000 Hot Springs Fishing Challenge, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission said in a news release.
The sixth annual event still has 54 prize fish worth $80,500 in lakes Catherine and Hamilton, including the elusive "Big Al," which is worth $15,000. "Al" is a largemouth bass, but no other info on him has been released.
Four other tagged fish are worth $5,000 each.
Sponsored by Visit Hot Springs, Relyance Bank and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, the contest runs until 5 p.m. June 30.
In all, 61 fish — largemouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish, white bass, crappie and walleye — were tagged and released by the game and fish commission at various locations around the lakes.
Penny's catch was the fourth prize fish caught in Lake Hamilton.
Where to Catch Bass on Lake Hamilton, Ark.
"We are continuing our great partnership with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, which has worked so well for us for the last five years," Steve Arrison, CEO of Visit Hot Springs, said. "AGFC staff at the Andrew Hulsey Fish Hatchery on Lake Hamilton has been spectacular in selecting, tagging and releasing the prize fish.
"Hot Springs residents and visitors coming to Hot Springs from throughout the nation have told us this is their favorite time of year," Arrison said. "Many people have told us they had an exciting time on the lakes trying to land one of the prize fish, even if they haven't yet hit the cash jackpot."
For additional information call Steve Arrison at 501-321-2027.