Prize bounty increases for annual Rainbow fishing derby

'Lithia Lunker' is worth $5,000, but you have to catch the trout that day

The Rainbow $5,000 trout-fishing tournament at Diamond Lake is celebrating its 16th birthday with a coming-out party that will offer its greatest prizes ever.

Lithia Body and Paint, which in recent years has sponsored the "Lithia Lunker," a tagged fish worth $1,000, has increased the cash prize to $5,000.

Also, boat-builder River Hawk Boats will sponsor a fish that, if caught, will net its lucky angler a new River Hawk Pro V 14-foot lake boat, sans motor or trailer.

And the main sponsor, The Black Bird Shopping Center in Medford, will sponsor five tagged fish that will fetch $500 each if caught.

That's above and beyond the sliding scale of 30 cash prizes to the derby entrants who catch the 30 biggest fish.

Unlike past years, the prizes for catching the tagged fish are available only to registered derby entrants on derby day, which is June 22 this year.

"It's only available on the day of the derby," says Mike McMullen of Black Bird. "After that? Zero. It's a one-day deal. That's how she goes."

In past years, tagged fish not caught during the derby could still be cashed in for the remainder of the season if checked in at Diamond Lake Resort, so anglers not taking part in the derby were still trying for, and occasionally cashing in on, tagged fish.

"We figured the only one getting anything out of it was Diamond Lake," McMullen says. "Once Lithia decided to do the $5,000 fish, we decided to make it just the one-day deal."

Other than that, it's the status quo for Southern Oregon's most popular trout-fishing derby, which draws about 1,000 anglers.

The Rainbow $5,000 remains a two-tiered contest.

The largest fish by weight will earn its angler $1,000, with second place netting $750 and third place fetching $500. Prizes descend in value, with the 10th place fish netting $100. The 11th- to 20th-place finishers each will win $75, while the 21st- to 30th-place finishers will earn $50 each.

"People are signing up as we speak," McMullen says. "It's going to be the best derby we've had."

The derby entrance fee is $16, with $1 donated to the local, nonprofit Court Appointed Special Advocates, which works on behalf of children in the state legal system.

The weigh-in begins at noon and ends at 3 p.m. Anglers must be in line by 3 p.m. to qualify for a weigh-in regardless of how long the last-minute line is. As in past derbies, each registered contestant can weigh in only one fish.

Those seeing dollar signs will be keeping their eyes on on the backs of the rainbows they net. They'll be looking for "floy tags," which are sometimes referred to as "spaghetti tags" because of their noodle-like appearance.

The tags are about 3 inches long and each bears a secret code denoting it as a derby-winning fish.

For more details, call Black Bird at 541-779-5431 or Diamond Lake Resort at 1-800-733-7593.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or

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