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Cirks Tournament benefits Dollars for Scholars program

Tom and Michael Baumert enjoy a day together on Lake Belle Taine, showing the nice smallmouth bass that the body of water is so well-known for. Fifty boats will compete in a tournament on Belle Taine today, hoping to bring home the $1,500 first-place check.

Today marks the annual Gene Cirks Memorial Scholarship Fishing Tournament held on Lake Belle Taine.

Nobody is completely certain how many years it's actually been held. Over twenty but not quite thirty years is as accurate as any personal account can tally.

Fishing hours are from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Weigh-in will take place throughout the day at Camper's Paradise Resort. A final weigh-in will take place beginning at 3 p.m. and the public is invited to visit the weigh-in site throughout the day. The award ceremony will be held at Muskie Park at about 4:30 p.m.

This event has been dear to me for several reasons. Since I grew up near the shores of Lake Belle Taine, it feels like I'm coming home each and every time I launch the boat into the Belle's clear-blue water.

Second, Gene Cirks, who the event is held in honor of, was the father of one of my good friends, uncle to another, and brother to other friends. I had the fortunate opportunity to spend a few trips as a guest in Gene's boat and revisit those moments in my mind on occasion.

Third, the Gene Cirks Memorial Scholarship Tournament helps generate funds for the Nevis Dollars for Scholars organization. Since the additional $10 per team tax deductible contribution was added, the event has raised nearly $10,000 for Nevis graduates pursuing post-secondary education.

Over the past few years, the Cirks event has not only attracted some very good competitors, but also a group of accomplished anglers who once called the lakes area home. Every year the tournament seems more and more like a reunion versus a competition. It's a small-town homecoming for all.

Typically held the day before Father's Day, the tournament brings back memories of my own dad from the early years of both my existence and the tournament's.

Twenty-one years ago, when I participated with my dad in the Belle Taine Tournament for the first time, most boats didn't have functioning livewells. A five-gallon bucket or cooler was commonplace in the participant's boats. Today registration is contingent upon a working livewell.

I'll never forget the anxiousness that built inside my belly the night before competition. Fifteen minutes of sleep was all my nerves would usually allow.

I remember the strategies my dad and I would plot, never etched on paper, but discussed in a calm voice just minutes before the siren signaled the release of our take-off flight; a not-so-fast-paced hole-shot with our 6 horsepower outboard for a hundred yards to the area we fished in the evenings from shore.

Though we never took home a check for winning, we always had the opportunity to bring fish up to the scale.

With Father's Day tomorrow, our father/son celebration will take place today, even though we'll be fishing in different boats. And when his team brings a fish to the scale, I'll cheer louder than anyone and under my breath thank him for introducing me to this wonderful pastime we call fishing.