HENDERSON — Henderson resident Allen Kingree had plenty of reasons to celebrate following a successful outing near Nashville, Tennessee, last weekend for the Bass Pro Shops U.S. Open Regional Qualifying Event.

Alongside his close friend Brandon Gray from Bullock, Kingree topped a 250-team field at Old Hickory Lake with a five-fish catch weighing 16.21 pounds. It earned the duo a first-place prize of $50,000.

Kingree and Gray were honored to see their hard work during the tournament pay off with $50,000, but for organizers and participants alike, fishing came second to honoring the victims and survivors of the Sept. 11 attacks on the tragedy’s 20th anniversary.

Bass Pro Shops put together numerous tributes throughout the weekend, including a remembrance ceremony organized by company founder Johnny Morris the night before the tournament.

Wildlife conservation was also heavily emphasized during the qualifying event, as proceeds ended up benefitting The National Fish Habitat Partnership. All the fish caught were released in a responsible manner following the weigh-in, including those that won Kingree and Gray their $50,000 grand prize.

By taking first place in Nashville, Kingree and Gray were one of 40 teams to qualify for the U.S. Open National Championship that will take place at Table Rock Lake in Missouri later this year.

The field for the National Championship was set through eight national qualifiers around the United States, including the one at Old Hickory Lake.

Some 316 teams will earn positions in the qualifiers, while the remaining 34 spots come down to performances on dealer trails and collegiate tournaments.

A lot will be on the line for the 350 teams that make the trip to Table Rock Lake, as an exceptional haul of fish will yield one of them a grand prize of $1 million, which is the largest payout in the history of amateur bass fishing.

Kingree and Gray will go for $1 million at Table Rock Lake from Nov. 19-21.

The tournament will be broadcasted internationally on NBC.

Contact Brandon White at bwhite@hendersondispatch.com or by phone at 252-436-2840