The Lake Rescue Shootout has grown into the nations premier performance-boating event.
Story - Gregg Mansfield
Photography - Tom Newby
It was an hour before the start of the Lake Rescue Shootout and Ken Hollister was getting anxious to see the boats run.
The St. Louis native out on the lake just after sunrise to stake out a prime spot on the course. Hollister and his buddies partied on the old deck boat, and throughout the morning watched as a stream of boats rafted off. The line of boats was four deep and getting deeper by the time Bacardi Silver made the first run down the course.
"I've never seen this many boats in one place before," Hollister said. "It looks like a rush-hour traffic jam."
The massive crowd is a testament to how much the Shootout on lake of the Ozarks, Mo., has grown in it's 17-year existence. An idea that was conceived in a local bar, the event has become an economic force in the community and a must-attend competition for performance-boating fans.
For fans like Hollister, it's a chance to see some of the fastest boats on the water run just 50 yards from their bow. And it makes for interesting drama as well-heeled owners fight to get their name on the Top Gun trophy.
"It still amazes me where this event has gone," said jeff Dorhaur, the Shootout's chairman. "They're not vying for a purse, it's a simple plaque. The only thing we can think of (why it's grown) is that we've kept it simple and fun."
Nearly 100 boats paid for the opportunity to run down the one-mile course. Although the majority of boats were high-performance, there was also a few pontoon boats and runabouts that take part every year.
It has been that way since the first Shootout in 1989. But as the speeds have sharply risen over the years, so has the price of the hardware sitting in front of Shooters 21, the local dockside bar. One dock had several MTI's while just across the way was a twin-turbine 51-foot Outerlimits. New Fountains and Bajas also dotted the docks.
Bob Morgan, owner of Big Thunder Marine in Lake of the Ozarks, says the highest-caliber boats started showing up in 1998. His boat two years ago ran 162 mph and finished fifth.
"The big money hasn't ruined it by any means, but the guys that used to build our own (stuff)... they're out now and the rich guys are in, which is fine," Morgan said. "Don't take that wrong. it has really helped the lake and the crowds are getting bigger and bigger."
One of those guys pushing up the speeds is David Scott, owner of the Bacardi Silver boat. Scott who owned the Top Gun title from 1997 through 2001, has seen the speeds jump more than 30 mph since his last crown.
He ran 185 mph during the event in August but it was well short of the 201 mph speed from the Callan marine team. "If you look around here, you won't see this anywhere else," Scott said. "There's some serious hardware here."
"Johnny (Tomlinson) and I still love walking around just looking at it."
While the grass roots event has gone more mainstream, it has been a benefit to the city and fire protection districts that serve the private lake. This years' event, sponsored by Budweiser and PowerBoat, was expected to bring in close to $80,000 for the organizers.
The money will be split among four fire departments that serve the lake. The agencies can choose how they spend the money as long as it's used for water-rescue activities.
The Shootout is also a major economic boost for Osage Beach and nearby communities. The event is held the last weekend in August, which typically would be a slow weekend at the lake. Boaters used to wait until Labor Day weekend to visit lake of the Ozarks.
Dorhauer says that's no longer the case. Some people will attend the Shootout and stay the following week. The result has been hotels near capacity and bustling restaurants with increased sales tax money for city coffers.
This year a local boat dealer put on a poker run the day before the Shootout. The run attracted more than 100 boats, many which didn't compete in the Shootout.