Department of Tourism
Paducah Angler Who Overcame Illness Will Compete in Ky. Lake Tournament
A Paducah, Ky. angler who recently won a lengthy battle with meningitis will compete in the “Bluegrass Brawl” Bassmaster fishing tournament at Kentucky Lake June 15-18.
Mark Menendez, 41, who was born in Murray, Ky. and grew up in Paducah, overcame the disease that struck him during an Alabama fishing tournament in February 2005 by spending 16 days in the hospital and three months of bed rest at home.
Then in June 2005 Menendez made a big splash on the Bassmaster Elite tour, the top level of competition for the most accomplished anglers, by winning the first tournament he entered after his forced layoff. His victory in Lanette, Ala. was his second win on the Elite tour.
Menendez is one of only four Kentuckians who will compete in the Kentucky Lake event.
“I lost a lot of physical conditioning from the idleness,” said Menendez, who knew he wanted to be a professional angler since first fishing with his father at age 10 on Lake Barkley. “The heat has been difficult, but I’m getting back in better shape.”
Menendez credits two Paducah neighbors who mentored him as an angler from grade school through college with the success that has brought him more than $410,000 in winnings since he turned pro in 1991. He was working as a Realtor while pursuing a master’s degree in education when he took the plunge into full-time bass fishing for a living.
The Bluegrass Brawl, which ESPN2 will broadcast at 10 a.m. ET on June 24, will test Menendez’s fishing skills on a lake where he grew up fishing. But he said familiarity with a tournament locale isn’t necessarily an advantage, since all competitors may practice there for three days prior to the event.
Still, Menendez said he hopes to finish high in the Kentucky Lake competition and make it a “scholarship event” for his two children, who along with his wife Donna and pet Labrador frequently accompany him on trips to Bassmaster tournaments across the country. First place in the Bluegrass Brawl pays $100,000.
Pro fishing is “a great excuse not to get a real job,” Menendez quipped. But he noted that he is away from home around 300 days of the year as he travels the Bassmaster circuit.
The Kentucky Sports Authority and the Department of Parks have been instrumental in working with Bassmaster to stage 10 tournaments on Kentucky lakes and streams in 2006.
“We are very pleased and excited to attract such events to the Commonwealth,” said Terry Johnson, executive director of the Sports Authority. He noted that the tournaments generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in economic impact in Kentucky and raise the state’s profile as a fishing mecca.
Daily launches and weigh-ins are free and open to the public at Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park, 113 Administration Drive, in Gilbertsville, Ky. Anglers launch at 5:30 a.m. CT and weigh-in at 3 p.m. CT.