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What started off as a way for North Lakeland Elementary School to help the area’s economic condition in the late 1970s, turned into 43 years of competition, comradery, and community. The WCMC has been supported by local businesses, clubs, and the chambers of commerce in Boulder Junction, Manitowish Waters, Presque Isle, and Winchester since its creation. Over the years thousands of fishermen, fisherwomen and their families have spent the weekend after Labor Day weekend hunting for the elusive musky in local lakes. This brought in much needed economic relief into the communities that supported the WCMC.

This year, after much consideration and discussion, the World Championship Musky Classic board has made the difficult decision to dissolve the WCMC. President Beth Kebl, along with the standing members of the board shared that it has been difficult to find volunteers and due to the pandemic, a place to hold the event and social distance has not been possible.  Local businesses that were contacted were not able to sponsor the event this year.  The scholarship funds, that were set aside for the Ben Bendrick Memorial fund, will be distributed to the current selected recipients.

 In a time when comradery and connections are so important to us, this is a huge loss for the communities and businesses alike. Fishermen for the tournament used to stay at the resorts, shop at the stores, and visit the local restaurants. On average, one fisherman would spend $400 in a weekend. With the average around 800 registered fishermen, that is a loss of about $320,000.00 that the local communities will miss this year.

“The hope was that we would have been able to find people that were interested in serving in board positions that would take over and continue the program as it has been set up. We have not had any luck obtaining any interest from the community to fill those positions. We had potentials, but nothing concrete and solid,” shared Jim Nelson, Board Member.

“The thing I will miss the most about the WCMC are the smiles and the people. It was like a family reunion where the fishermen became friends and they looked forward to this every year. Some of them have been coming for years. It is with a heavy heart that we made these decisions. The community should know that they were not made lightly,” said Beth Kebl.

“I was involved in every tournament since 1977. We won the classic in 1978. When I retired, I became the representative from the town of Winchester. I am disappointed that the tournament has ended. It would have been nice to get younger people involved to carry on the legacy. It takes a lot of man hours to run a tournament like that. I will miss the comradery.  Every Friday morning when you see 300-400 people gather at the Manitowish Waters Community Center to register, it was fun. When the tournament was over, there were so many stories to be shared and listened to. It was an unbelievable experience for everyone involved. It will be missed very much,” Leo Crawley stated.

“I was on the WCMC board for the past 19 years. It was an honor to serve on the board as I was born and raised in the same community where Ben Bendrick was from. I looked up to him and that was one of the reasons I wanted to be a conservation warden. It is difficult to see this tournament end. It has done so much for our communities. The volunteers were special people and without them the tournament would not have functioned. Beth Kebl deserves much recognition. Her dedication, strength and character and tremendous amount of time, effort and leadership made this tournament work. The WCMC tournament has provided over $200,000 in scholarships to local students during its history. That’s something everyone should be proud of. God bless you all!” wrote Mike Mackenzie in a letter to the paper.

The World Champion Musky Classic was a cornerstone in the community for 40 years. The board would like to thank the many businesses and clubs that supported this tournament. They would also like to thank the many volunteers that helped to make this event possible. To the families and fishermen and women who became like family, thank you. To all of you who helped to create a community of fishing, friendships, and healthy competition, thank you for making this event worth every moment. We will miss you all so much and are grateful for the time and memories that we all shared. Until we meet again, fish on and fish often.

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What is the Ben Bendrick Memorial Scholarship?

The purpose of this scholarship is to honor Ben Bendrick, a conservation warden who dedicated his life to the preservation of the natural resources of the State of Wisconsin.  Through this award the men and women of the World Championship Musky Classic Committee wish to recognize Mr. Bendrick's unswerving and tireless devotion to improving the educational system and the opportunities for the education of the youth of the Lakeland area.  His efforts on behalf of all the people of the North Lakeland area will serve as an inspiration and a model, which the recipients of this award may emulate while building their own productive lives.

The Scholarship Committee of the World Championship Musky Classic recognizes that students may be more successful if relieved of the inherent pressure of an excessive financial burden.  This scholarship was established to assist students in relieving that financial pressure.  This should allow students to focus on their academic schedule and result in a more complete and successful education experience.

Please, Please, PLEASE click on this Aquatic Invasive Species link and familiarize yourself with this problem and ways to fight it!  http://dnr.wi.gov/invasives/index.htm

Chamber links for the 4 Supporting Communities
Boulder Junction Chamber of Commerce -- www.boulderjct.org or 1-800-466-8759
Manitowish Waters Chamber -- www.manitowishwaters.org or 1-888-626-9877
Presque Isle Chamber -- www.presqueisle.com or 1-888-835-6508
Winchester Chamber -- www.winchester-wi.org or 715-686-2123

World Championship Musky Classic
PO Box 42
Manitowish Waters, WI 54545

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