TAHLEQUAH – The better part of the Cherokee Nation’s monthly Resource Committee meeting was spent tackling rumors surrounding promised payouts from the tribe’s fall bass tournament.
According to Tribal Council Speaker Mike Shambaugh, doubt was cast on how prize winnings were doled out at the inaugural Cherokee National Holiday Bass Fishing Tournament held Sept. 10 on Lake Tenkiller.
“Several meetings back, there were basically allegations made that we had a bass tournament we didn’t pay all the money back. I’ve read a bit about that on Facebook, how, you know, we basically defrauded people out of money,” Shambaugh said during the Nov. 14 meeting, adding that the claims were “absolutely” untrue.
CN Secretary of Natural Resources Chad Harsha said more prize money was paid out than the tribe recovered from entry fees.
“All told, we had 105 paid entry fees at $60, so that was roughly $6,300,” he said. “We did reduce that amount by 20% to recapture – to offset – the cost of the competition. Then we funded it by another $4,000 out of the holiday budget so that way we could pay the $500 winner fee and there was also other rankings and fees paid out. The way I understand the math here, you know, we received $6,300 but in total we paid out over $9,000.”
It appeared the issue was sparked by Tribal Councilor Wes Nofire, who also addressed the topic “since these insinuations are directed to a question I had asked,” he said.
“Some of the fishermen had contacted me about the payout and structure and where it was at and I said I would inquire about that,” Nofire said. “So, asking a question like that definitely was brought to my attention. After looking at it and doing the calculations myself, I said well there might be something here to it.”
Nofire suggested that the 20% fee to the tournament organizer, Angler Nation, was “not known before and it was not told here when I asked about it.”
“I said … it should be advertised so that way people do know and they’re aware of that it’s not 100% payout, that there is a 20% cost to adding on the tournament fee,” he said. “That way people are clear at what we’re advertising, what the costs were. So that way they know where the money went to, that their entry fee wasn’t 100% paid back, that it was a 20% fee that was going to be used to pay the tournament director to put the tournament on.”
Harsha countered that the payout was “actually in excess of 100%.”
“After the cost recovery to the holiday and after costs to cover the Angler Nation, we paid out a little over $9,000,” he said. “So $6,300 came in. That’s certainly in excess of 100%.”
Harsha added that the 20% fee came out of the tribe’s portion of $4,000 to help facilitate the event.
“Every prize that was stated on the flyer was paid out,” he said. “Then there were subsets of prize paid out thereafter based on where folks ranked on the weight of their fish in excess of the money received until the account was exhausted. I believe there were all the way to 15th place.”
The fishing tournament, held at the tail end of the 70th annual Cherokee National Holiday, saw a mix of single participants and both youth and adult teams. Cherokee Nation citizen Jason Christie, a well-known professional angler who won this year’s Bassmaster Classic, assisted with the event.