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The Bass Federation National Championship
By Jim Jones


4 lb 14 oz Largemouth on Lake Wylie , North Carolina 

We just returned home from our trip to the TBF National Championship on Lake Wylie in the Carolinas .  Day 1 was great, I caught a limit and was leading the co-angler big bass pot up until I get beat out at the end.  I ended up Day 1 in the lead for my Division, but came up a little short on Day 2.  I had a limit on the second day, but they were all pretty small.  That is the frustrating part of being a co-angler, that you have little control of your destiny.  I had great partners both days, and the FLW/ TBF crew and sponsors put on an awesome tournament!!!  This was first class all the way! They gave us tons of sponsor merchandise, including a Ranger coat, Solar Bat Sunglasses, Stearns SOS suspenders, Plano tackle bag, a National Guard backpack, shirts, and of coarse lots of hats and more.  They provided very nice banquets, great support and service from the tournament crew, and a wonderful family fun zone that my kids really enjoyed.  The weigh ins were in a huge coliseum, filled with huge inflatable slides and bouncy things, several boat simulators, a trout pond, Reel Kids Casting, and more.  My kids had a blast, and thanks to all the National Guard cadets that were there to help. 

It has been a long process to get to this event.  First we fish in club tournaments, then my Zone tournament, then to a State tournament.  I made the 12 man team for Wisconsin , and took second place at the Divisional in Oshkosh last summer.  The first place guy went as the boater, and I went as the co-angler to represent our state.  Doug Bank was the boater from Wisconsin .  He also brought his family for support, this was a very family-friendly event.  He had an awesome Day 1 as well, leading the Division with over 15 lbs.  But we both fell to a similar fate on Day 2.  Close, but not close enough.  I was really rooting for him to pull through, he is such a great guy!

It was sure nice to leave the foot of snow we just got back home in Wisconsin and spend some time on the water in beautiful Southern Spring weather.  Day 1 was cloudy and cool.  My partner was Bill Kramer from Maryland .  I started out the day with a bang!  I caught my big bass, almost 5 lbs on my third cast of the day on a jerk bait.  My other four keepers of the day were caught on black/ silver jerk baits and various craws. We were mostly fishing spawning bass, in shallow coves.   Day 2 brought us Bluebird skies.  I fished with  Frank Perkins from Maine .  We fished docks all day.  I mostly used a green pumpkin shaky head worm, and my partner used a Senko.  When I finally got the big bite I was needing on day 2 it unfortunately turned out to be a 4 lb catfish, not what I was needing. A lot of people were surprised how skinny many of the fish were.  They would have huge heads, but not the body to go with it.  Surprisingly, there were not a lot of boats on the water in the area.  The weather was in the 70's, but the locals didn't seem to be ready to head out yet.  Even with the FLW tournament coming up on Lake Norman near by, we saw very few fellow anglers out there either. 

As for the tournament crew, these are the best in the business.  Every little detail is handled with outmost professionalism.  We started each morning with a breakfast at the hotel, and then we headed out in our wrapped boat and matching truck that was provided for each of us.  I fished out of the BP boat and the US Bank boat.  Everything was always fully gassed up for us, and the crew is always there to park your truck for you and take care of our every need. When we take off in the morning, our box lunch, sodas and snacks are even loaded in the boat for us each day. When we came back in to the launch, the crew had even turned all the rigs around in the parking lot, so it all went more smoothly to pull everyone out of the water!  We had a police escort to get us to the weigh-in site each day.  At the end of the day, while we are enjoying dinner, they are gassing us all up again, filling up the oil, charging the batteries and even cleaning the boats out for us.  

The methods of caring for the fish are incredible!  Even though the weigh-in was in downtown Charlotte , the fish stayed just as healthy as if we weighed them in at the dock.  The live wells are all top of the line in the Ranger Boats we all used, and we were all provided with Rejuvinade chemicals for our live-wells.  The aerated tank system at the coliseum and in-water weigh-in on stage all kept the fish alive and well.  I believe they said over 90% were released back into Lake Wylie alive.

I can't wait till September at Sandusky in Ohio to try to make it again next year to the Championship.  It is great to see how far the Federation has come!  This was an awesome experience, especially for the guys who have never fished a big tournament before.

Look for the televised version of this tournament on FSN on May 27th.  Maybe I will get a few seconds of footage, even though I didn't qualify for the All American.  I did catch a nice one for the TV camera on the water each day.