April 16, 2011 by David Hart
When Allen Boyd was 13, his grandfather bought him an aluminum boat. His grandmother dropped him off at a local lake nearly every day during the summer, and he spent every moment he could with a fishing rod in his hand.
"I fished all day long. That's all I wanted to do. I was just a young kid with a fishing pole, but I loved every minute of it," he recalled.
Those long days 25 years ago paid off Saturday when Boyd brought a 17-pound, 1-ounce limit to the scales on the final day of the TBF National Championship, held on Nickajack Lake, to win the "Living The Dream" package. It includes paid entry into the Walmart FLW Tour and is valued at over $100,000. His three-day weight was 50 pounds, just 5 ounces more than second-place boater James Biggs of Texas. Boyd had no hesitations when he was asked if he was going to fish the Tour.
"I've always wanted to do this. I've been a TBF member for such a long time, and I've dreamed about fishing at the pro level," said Boyd, who still seemed stunned an hour after he was presented his trophy.
His win didn't come without some nervous anticipation. Over 2 inches of rain fell on the region yesterday and last night, giving Boyd reason for concern.
"I couldn't sleep. I was worried my spots would be muddy," he said.
Beale falls from first, still wins boat
Day-two leader Kenny Beale Jr., who had nearly 4 pounds more than the next angler going into the final day, didn't have the same good fortune.
Beale ran 35 miles up Nickajack Lake from the launch site near the dam each day to a series of secluded sloughs and indents off the main river channel, including a few spots that weren't even on his GPS. The heavy rain, however, proved a killer for Beale's productive jig pattern.
"My main spots were chocolate-red, solid mud," he said.
Despite the water color, Beale and his partner, co-angler champion Rhett Fornof, decided to give the spot at least a try. An hour and one catfish later, they bailed and went to a rocky bank the two found during the official practice day. It already had five other boats on it. With few options, Beale stayed and worked a Texas-rigged Zoom Baby Brush Hog up and down the shore. The spot was good enough for a 12-pound, 1-ounce limit, but it wasn't good enough for the win. He slipped to third overall, ending up with a three-day total of 48-14. Beale was just 1 pound, 2 ounces behind Boyd and 13 ounces behind second-place boater James Biggs.
Boyd reveals winning pattern, Biggs jigs for second overall
Boyd was in third in the Northern Division after the first day, but moved into first after crushing a 19-pound, 11-ounce sack on the second day, including two 5-pounders. Under tournament rules, only one angler from each of the TBF's seven divisions moves on after the second day.
He relied on a blue-and-chartreuse Norman crankbait and a shallow-diving Strike King crankbait. They produced nearly all his fish, which came from just a few areas near Hales Bar Marina that he returned to all three days.
"I was mostly working riprap, but I found some emerging grass just out from some of that riprap. I just went back and forth with the shallow-diving crankbait and deeper-diving one. I'd catch one or two fish with each pass in anywhere from 2 to 12 feet of water," he said.
Biggs also fished riprap near Hales Bar Marina the entire tournament, but he was in a different area than Boyd. He caught an estimated 15 to 25 keepers each day, including a limit before 7 a.m. today, which is exactly what he hoped to do.
"I'm not one of those guys that just fishes for five bass. I wanted to catch 15 or 20 a day because I knew this was going to come down to ounces. When you catch a bunch of fish, you can be sure one or two will be good ones," he said.
Biggs, a 30-year-old firefighter and paramedic who joined the Texas Bass Federation just a year ago, caught most of his fish on a 3/8-ounce football jig tipped with a green-pumpkin Zoom Speed Craw.
Fornof rises to top of Co-angler Division
Fornof, a management consultant from Park City, Utah, not only had the good fortune of drawing skilled partners, he actually drew Beale on the first and third day, and was paired with him for the official practice period. He ended up with 44 pounds, 9 ounces.
"Kenny and I got along really good, and we worked together as a team in some ways. I couldn't have asked for better partners," he said.
Fornof wasn't even supposed to be here. Fellow Utah Bass Federation member Mike Isbell actually beat Fornof in the divisional tournament and was slated to fish as a co-angler for Utah, but had to drop out of the championship.
"I was actually working in Canada when Mike called me and asked me if I wanted to take his place. He said, `I need to know today.' That was last Wednesday," said Fornof. "I was supposed to be on another job this week, and I thought, `I may not have a job when I get home if I choose to fish.' I chose to fish."
Rest of the best
Larry Hardy of Tonto Basin, Ariz., came in fourth with 47 pounds, 9 ounces. Idaho angler Don Boeger finished fifth in the Boater Division with 44-1, 19-year-old Ryan Latinville of New York placed sixth, and Greg Hoskinson came in seventh with 34-12. Jason Myers placed second overall in the Co-angler Division. He weighed 41 pounds, 8 ounces. Dennis Hastings of Texas came in third, followed by Robert Harkness of West Virginia as well as Gene Lippincott, Jason Hester and Casey Casamento of New York.
Boyd not only won a slot on the Walmart FLW Tour, the "Living The Dream" package also includes Tour entry fees, the use of a wrapped Ranger boat and wrapped Chevy tow vehicle, sponsor merchandise and travel expenses. He also won a check for $6,000 and a berth in the prestigious 2011 Forrest Wood Cup. Fornof will also fish in the Forrest Wood Cup as a co-angler, and all 14 finalists earned a slot in the 2011 BFL All-American.
Despite slipping to third, Beale isn't leaving Kimball, Tenn., empty-handed. He was the top Ranger Cup angler and will go home with a brand-new Ranger boat. Fornof was the top Ranger Cup co-angler. He earned a $5,000 check from Ranger Boats.