In a county that’s plays host to the biggest professional bass tournaments in the nation, the Rhea Alliance Tournament is one of the few homegrown events that’s become a staple on the Fish Dayton calendar – and for good reason.
The Rhea Alliance Tournament embodies the very spirit of the Rhea Alliance organization who with leaders from Grandview to Graysville “Work Together to Promote Rhea County”. Not only does it support the county’s best student anglers through generous scholarships, but in the true spirit of inclusivity the event highlights two of the county’s most beautiful natural resources in Watts Bar Lake on Day One and Chickamauga Lake on Day Two.
- Will Travis – 1st Place Angler’s Division
- Coleman Hamilton – 1st Place Co-Angler’s Division
- Tanner Mclain – 2nd Place Angler’s Division
- Garrett White – 2nd Place Co-Angler’s Division
- Mason Wampler – 1st Place Junior Angler’s Division
- Jackson Ray – 1st Place Junior Co-Angler’s Division
- Brody Commins – 2nd Place Junior Angler’s Division
- Evan Williamson – 2nd Place Junior Co-Angler’s Division
Event organizer and Rhea Alliance President Jim Reed insists, “If it wasn’t for the support of the community through generous sponsorships, and these great kids, we couldn’t make this event happen.”
Despite headwinds from the coronavirus and an altogether weird 2020, the 7th Annual Rhea Alliance did not disappoint. With the determination of the Rhea Alliance and committed community sponsors, over $8500 in scholarships and countless door prizes were awarded.
Reed credits Vaughn Berger and other Rhea Alliance board members with making this event what it is today. Featured sponsors include Volunteer Electric Co-op, Middle TN Natural Gas, Rhea Medical Center, Bryan College, and the City of Dayton Utility Grant Program.
These generous sponsors make the following sponsorships possible: 1st place Anglers and Co-Anglers receive a $2500 Bryan College sponsorship or $1,000 general fund scholarship, 2nd place Anglers and Co-Anglers receive $500 each, and Junior Division winning Anglers and Co-Anglers receive a $250 starter scholarship.
In a turn of events, this year’s high school angler division champion pieced together a comeback story of which legends are made.
After closing day one on Watts Bar, Eagle Angler Will Travis only had a one and a half pound fish which landed him at the bottom of the heap going into Day Two.
“I had an ok practice earlier that week (on Chickamauga). I knew we were gonna have to come back and rally hard if we were gonna have shot at this,” said the humble but towering Will Travis who stands north of 6’4″.
During that practice session, he discovered a grass mat with a lot of activity.
Right before blast-off he told his dad, Bill Travis, “We might as well hit those grass mats right out of the gate.” The plan paid off in spades.
“We heard the bass blowing up bluegill in the mats,” upon arrival said Will. He had his three fish limit of 6.57 pounds early using topwater frogs.
While he was never improved, his two-day total was enough to edge out Day One leader Tanner McClain by a mere three ounces.
Along with bragging rights of besting Rhea County’s top student anglers, the spoils of victory only adds to Travis’ ever-growing scholarship fund with a $1000 general scholarship or $2500 Bryan College scholarship.
Over the years, Will has accumulated three titles from this event. He first won the Junior Division as a 7th-grader in 2016, later won his first High School Angler division as a freshman in 2018, and he now has his second High School Angler division win.
With the high cost of today’s college tuition, Will adds, “it’s definitely a big weight off your shoulders”.
“We definitely couldn’t have this tourney without the sponsors and fantastic organizers. There’s always a great turnout and much appreciation for those who play a role in supporting and organizing this event.”
But organizer Jim Reed who works year round on the tournament insists, “I truly feel Rhea Alliance is as blessed to be part of this as the kids are who participate.”
“We all work together to make this a success.”
Participants were also awarded countless door prizes were made possible by Bluewater Outdoors, the Bait Box, Jerry’s Bait Shop, Bailey Reed Motors, Town of Spring City, Rhea County Fair, Don Carr, Aaron Goins, Michael Neal, George Thacker, Gary Louallen, Dayton Chamber of Commerce, Rhea Ambulance Service, and Rhea Economic & Tourism Council.
Reed adds with a smile, “We are already making plans to get ready for 2021.”