The Bass Federation - National Championship
National Championship - Nickajack (April 14-16, 2011)
KIMBALL, Tenn. - A steady, pounding rain, gusty winds and sporadic lightning didn’t stop the action on Nickajack Lake during the second day of TBF National Championship competition. Fifty-eight TBF anglers brought limits to the scales despite the rapidly deteriorating conditions - and many of those limits were heavier than yesterday’s. Kenny Beale Jr.’s limit, however, wasn’t. It weighed 16 pounds, 6 ounces, nearly 4 pounds lighter than his first day’s limit, but that didn’t matter. The Danville, Va., angler managed to fend off Mid-Atlantic Division challenger and second-place angler Ed Loughran to keep the overall lead with 36 pounds, 13 ounces. That included an 8-ounce dead fish penalty.
Not only did Beale manage to scratch out a decent limit, he actually managed to dodge the nasty weather.
“It was slick calm all day where I was and we didn’t get much rain at all until the ride back to the ramp at the end of the day,” he said. “We didn’t see any lightning, either.”
He stuck with the same two spots and threw the same jig that accounted for the tournament’s heaviest bag so far, but the action wasn’t quite as hot as Thursday. Beale didn’t catch a keeper until an hour after his first cast, and the bite virtually shut down by noon. Beale suggested that the combination of inclement weather and higher water levels that greeted the field’s 94 anglers at morning take-off most likely accounted for the slower action in today’s contest.
“I thought the higher water would help. I don’t know what happened,” he said.
Even with a drop in the number and size of bass, Beale has no plans to make any changes during Saturday‘s finals.
“I’m going to do what got me this far. I have to believe there are more quality fish in that area than what I caught,” he said, adding that he isn’t nervous about tomorrow. “What happens, happens. It’s been real fun so far.”
Fifth-place angler Don Boeger, who won the Northwest Division, may not feel quite as relaxed. He planned on sight-fishing today for bass he located during the official practice day, but realized that wasn’t going to happen when he took a look at the high water this morning. Instead, he returned the same areas that produced a limit on Thursday. He actually caught more fish, but they weren’t quite as big. His limit today was 14 pounds, 4 ounces - giving him a two-day total of 31 pounds, 4 ounces.
Boeger relied on a Reaction Innovations soft plastic bait rigged on a 1/4-ounce shaky-head jig. His fish came from as little as a foot of water out to10 feet.
“I’m torn. Where I start will depend on the water level. I’d like to go to those bedding fish, but I just don’t know what the conditions will be tomorrow,” said the Caldwell, Idaho, angler.
Perhaps the most uplifting story of the day came from a 19-year old boater from Plattsburgh, N.Y. Although not the youngest angler to ever fish the TBF National Championship, Ryan Latinville is the youngest in this year’s tournament. A 14-pound, 6-ounce limit pushed him from third to first in the Eastern Division to claim a slot in tomorrow’s competition. Latinville’s limit on Thursday was 2 pounds, 11 ounces behind David McNary, who only caught four fish both days. Latinville still has a lot of ground to make up if he has a shot at winning, however, as he trails Beale by 11 pounds, 9 ounces. Most of his fish, including a 5 1/2-pound largemouth, were caught on a pumpkin tube rigged on a 1/4-ounce jig head. It’s the same bait he uses frequently on Lake Champlain, his home water. Despite the distance between Nickajack and New York, Latinville said the lakes are similar in some ways.
“The water color here is a lot like where I fish on Champlain, so I looked for rocks like I fish back home,” he said. “The patterns were pretty similar.”
His big bass, along with two around 3 pounds, came with just an hour or so left in the day and during the intense downpour that drenched most of the anglers.
“I caught most of my fish during the hardest rain of the day,” he recalled.
He and six others from the Boater Division, including Beale, Boeger, second-place angler Allen Boyd, Larry Hardy, James Biggs and Greg Hoskinson, will advance to the final day as they battle for amateur bass fishing’s most lucrative prize, the “Living The Dream” package, valued at more than $100,000. It includes paid entry into the Walmart FLW Tour, the use of a wrapped Chevy tow vehicle and Ranger boat, sponsor merchandise and expense money.
Fornof leads Co-angler Division
Rhett Fornof of Park City, Utah, leads the Co-angler Division with a two-day catch of 31 pounds, 13 ounces. He fished with Kenny Beale Jr., the first day and Rich Nicodemus, who came in eighth place in the Boater Division, on Friday. Fornof caught the biggest bass of the day, a 5-pound, 14-ounce largemouth, on a Texas-rigged Zoom Woolly Hog Tail from a staging area adjacent to a spawning flat.
“We were fishing an area with five other boats, but our cranking battery died when we were going to leave, so we ended up having to stay. Those other boats left and we started really catching them. I culled 8 pounds in the last hour,” he said.
Fornof has a 1-pound, 7-ounce lead over Jason Myers of Ohio. Former “Living The Dream” angler Robert Harkness of West Virginia is third in the Co-angler Division with 29 pounds, 1 ounce, followed by Casey Casamento, Jason Hester, Dennis Hastings and Gene Lippincott.
In all, 14 anglers - seven boaters and seven co-anglers - will fish tomorrow. The angler in each division who records the heaviest combined weight over all three days of competition will be awarded the championship title. Each of the 14 anglers earned a slot in the BFL All-American, and the top boater and co-angler will also fish in the 2011 Forrest Wood Cup this summer.
Anglers will launch from the TVA’s Shellmound Day Use Area near the Nickajack Dam at 6 a.m. and fish until 1 p.m. The weigh-in takes place at 3 p.m. Eastern Time at the Chattanooga Convention Center just before the Walmart FLW Tour Major weigh-in at the same location.