What started a few years ago as two separate fishing tournaments to raise money to fund scholarships for two late members of the Mississippi Gulf Coast fishing community has now given way to a World Championship Speckled Trout tournament.

The first Spraberry-Schankin Speckled Trout World Championship will be held April 17-19 in Gulfport, with competition also held in redfish, cobia and flounder.

“A group of us got together and formed a group called Mississippi Gulf Coast Fishing Tournaments so we could gain 501-C-3 status to start a scholarship fund,” said tournament spokesman John Rea. “We did that because we have lost two dear friends who were fishermen down here in the last five years and we wanted to do something to honor them and keep their names and influences alive.

“We started doing a speckled trout tournament for Dr. Chris Spraberry and then a red snapper event for Raymond Schankin, with the proceeds benefitting a scholarship at University Medical Center in Jackson (Spraberry was a dentist with a UMC degree) and one at the University of Southern Mississippi for Schankin where he graduated. Actually both men went to USM.”

This year, Rea said they decided to combine the two to create one big event on which to focus, “plus the red snapper situation is so volatile that we just wanted to get away from it.”

Of a total $20,000 budget, $12,000 is dedicated for special funds — $5,000 to each scholarship fund, plus an additional $2,000 given to the Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs. The rest will be used for prize money and tournament expenses.

The event, which will be staged out of The Dock Bar and Grill at Gulfport Lake, has a $75 entry fee. There is also a youth competition for children aged 12 and under that is free.

“The $75 entry fee gets each fisherman one spot in all four species, but he or she can only win one spot in each division,” Rea said. “If anyone wants to try to win two spots like a first and a second in a species, then it would take another $75.”

Top prize in speckled trout is $5,000 ($500 second, $250 third). Anyone holding a new state record — currently 10 pounds, 10 ounces — at tournament’s end would win a 2014 Ford F-150 pickup truck.

“Is that realistic? You better believe it is,” Rea said. “The state record has been broken twice in two years. I promise you there are trout swimming out there that can put some angler in a new truck.”

Other prize purses are:

Cobia — $1,000, $250, $100.

Redfish — $500, $250, $100.

Flounder — $500, $250, $100.

A mandatory captain’s meeting will be held at the Dock Bar and Grill at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 17.

“Since all fishermen are required to attend, we are asking that they bring their entry fees and register between 4 and 7 p.m. prior to the meeting,” Rea said. “Once the meeting ends, fishing can begin and can continue through Saturday. As long as they are in line to weigh in at 6 p.m. Saturday, they are good to go.”

Two weigh-in periods will be allowed, 4-6 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

“On Saturday, we will have a fish fry for all tournament anglers and live entertainment at the awards ceremony,” Rea said. “We will also have door prizes. Each entry will receive a Marty Wilson–designed T-Shirt, so when you think about it, all included, each person will get nearly $75 worth for their entry fee.”

For more information, visit msgulfcoastfishingtournaments.com or call either Rea at (228) 380-9929 or Steve Fitzgerald at (228) 596-5850.