For most fisher folk catching walleye in Lake Erie can be relatively easy. Smallmouth bass, when the bite is on, can be even easier. Try to do both in the same day and the feat can be frustrating.

When Bob Rich Jr. decided to put together a combination freshwater fishing tournament in Western New York similar to the saltwater bonefish and redfish tourneys he had sponsored, few knew how popular and successful this event would become over the years.

Now, 11 years later, the Greater Niagara BassEye Celebrity Challenge has made many a mark – and continues to be a challenge for the best of bass and walleye anglers working the waters of Lake Erie and the upper Niagara River. When the fishing starts on Friday morning, June 28, out of the NFTA Small Boat Harbor, celebrities, charter captains and anglers will be out supporting this Cystic Fibrosis Foundation fundraising event.

Famous folk from entertainment, sports, business and the media have joined in this CFF effort. Among sports celebrities, NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly has been the most frequent participant.

News of Kelly’s cancer diagnosis had Bob Rich Jr. saying Tuesday, “I hope he pulls through this and can make it to our event June 27 and 28. I don’t think people realize how much time he devotes to this and other causes.”

Linda Pellegrino of WKBW-TV has hosted this event during all but one year. She even gets in on the fishing whenever possible.

Notable hockey names that have appeared on the BassEye roster include Marcel Dionne, Rob Ray, and Larry Playfair among others.

Leading among entertainment figures is Cory Wells, lead singer with Three Dog Night. Wells does a retro circuit that has him on the road too much of the time during the fishing year. Wells, an avid bass angler, said earlier this week, “I was able to get to Chautauqua for much of May and got them bass but I’m not sure if I’ll be in the Buffalo area for the BassEye this year.”

Gia Coone, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation executive director, is putting together a slate of celebrities that will include area media and business notables involved in promoting of the area’s fishery and supporting Cystic Fibrosis Foundation research and treatment efforts.

Locating the fish on Friday will be the usual uncertainty.

Weather has been a factor during previous contests. Fortunately, the head of the Niagara River often offers smooth enough surfaces for boaters to get to both walleye and bass. The Union Ship Canal and harbor backwaters all hold surprising numbers of largemouth as well as smallmouth bass.

Some years see dank days with rough seas; most outings have been on sunny days with a mild chop to the water and new records set for sizes and numbers of bass and walleye. Catches can never be certain.

But the Thursday evening gathering site will be a certainty. This year, CFF has opted to hold the Dinner and Auction Reception on Coca-Cola Field.

“The field site will make the event a nice start to the summer in a relaxed atmosphere,” Coone said. Parking will be ample and visitors can move around the Buffalo Bisons’ playing field with ease and enjoyment. For details on the gatherings, donations, registrations and other CFF functions, go to