15 boats hit Smith Lake for 2nd annual Hannah Bates Memorial Bass Fishing Tournament

Pictured L-R: Matt Lee, Clint Morgan, Roger Shiflett, Sonya Bates Fortner, Chris Striker, Jeff Miller, Lionel Bates. (Nick Griffin for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Despite some cloudy and wet conditions on Smith Lake Saturday morning, 15 boats hit the water for the 2nd annual Hannah Bates Memorial Bass Fishing Tournament, topping last year’s total of 13. All proceeds from the tournament go toward the Hannah Bates Memorial Scholarship at Wallace State Community College. The scholarship is offered each year to students in the Fast Track, Business Management or Nursing Programs. The event not only supports local students, but honors the memory of Hannah, who was killed in an ATV crash at Stony Lonesome OHV Park in February 2018.

Hannah’s Father, Lionel, was happy to see a turnout even better than last year’s and continue to hear the way his daughter impacted others throughout her community.

“It’s wonderful. It shows over time that people are understanding about what happened and the tragedy of that event and there are people starting to learn that they knew this girl, they just didn’t know they knew her,” He said. “They say, ‘Hey I knew her, she was here, or she was there, or she knew my daughter, or she’s been over at my house before’. It happens that way and they just didn’t realize that’s who it was. It’s just great to see people come out and let their heart show. It makes it a good day. It makes it a bright day instead of a cloudy day.”

Hannah’s Mother, Sonya, was happy to see all the teams there to support the event as well and loves that it gives them a chance to help others while honoring her daughter’s memory.

“It’s just amazing. All of the support, the prayers and the community coming out means so much to me,” She said. “It’s a double-edged sword because we love helping people, even under a tragic circumstance, it means a lot to help someone in Hannah’s honor.”

One of the things that makes this event particularly special for Sonya is that Hannah loved to fish herself. It means a lot to her and those close to Hannah that they can put together a great event that she would’ve loved to participate in.

“Hannah fished every day that she could, she loved it. She didn’t eat fish, she didn’t like to eat fish, but she would just fish and fish and throw them back and I never could understand why. I’d tell her, ‘Hannah you’ve caught so many big fish, bring them home and let’s eat them’ but she didn’t and now I see why. Most fishermen just throw them back. It just means the world to me to be able to do something that she loved doing and we just hope to grow it every year.”

To donate to the Hannah Bates Memorial Scholarship Fund, you can go to www.wsccalumni.org/hannahbates.

Prizes awarded to top 3 boats:

1st place – Christ Strokes: 12.15lbs ($500)

2nd place – Jeff Miller, Roger Shiflett: 10.90lbs ($200)

3rd place – Matt Lee, Clint Morgan: 9.00 ($100)

Big Fish – Jeff Miller, Roger Shiflett: 3.10lbs

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