Anglers Optimistic Heading Into Day 1

The quiet before the storm at Grand Lake 'O the Cherokees, where The Bass Federation National Championship got underway Thursday.

2014 TBF National Championship GROVE, OK-Optimism was running high in the predawn darkness at Wolf Creek Park among the 94 grassroots anglers preparing for take-off on Day 1 of The Bass Federation's 2014 National Championship on legendary Grand Lake. Hailing from 46 U.S. states and the province of Ontario, the anglers earned Boater and Non-Boater championship berths-and a chance to compete for more than $200,000 in cash and prizes-by qualifying through state and regional TBF events. For many, the road to the nationals was a two-year journey. "Most start at the club level to fish the state championship and qualify for their state team, which sends them to the divisional tournament the following year," explained TBF national president Robert Cartlidge. "The top Boater and Non-Boater from each division end up here." All anglers compete the first two days of the TBF championship, after which the top Boater and Non-Boater from each of the seven divisions move on to the final day. As the anglers geared up prior to launch, many predicted fine fishing in the hours ahead. "There's going to be a lot of nice fish caught today," grinned Jerry Hoesli of Hutchinson, Kansas. "The water's warming up and we should see prespawn fish move shallow." David Simmons of Molalla, Oregon, agreed that the weather was extremely promising. "I think we're going to wreck them today," he said. "We had a warming trend during the night, and the wind's going to turn them on even more. The fish have wanted to move up and spawn, and today they're going to do it." Simmons expected a variety of presentations to take fish. "Spinnerbaits, cranks, jigs, Alabama rigs-they're all going to work," he said. However, the strong south wind gusting across the TBF boatyard was not lost on Todd Gentzel of Colorado Springs, Colorado. "It's supposed to pick up even more," he said. "Hopefully we can get into a few key areas and catch our fish before it does." Indeed, the National Weather Service was predicting gusts building to 35 mph during the day, with air temperatures climbing into the 80s. Regardless of how the fishing unfolds, Gary Freeman of Las Vegas, Nevada, was already impressed with the event, which is produced under a partnership between TBF and FLW Outdoors. "The arrangements are awesome," he said. "It's pretty nice to come to a tournament, get to use a brand-new Ranger, and have your hotel and boat gas covered. They even give you lunch!" Mike Cusano of Clay, New York, shared Freeman's feelings about the championship experience. "It's a lot of fun coming down here," he said. "You get to meet a lot of great people. I'm excited about today, and I think we're going to do well." Fellow New Yorker Burnie Haney, of Calcium, was also upbeat, and glad to be enjoying the Oklahoma weather. "I had 10 inches of snow in my front yard when I left home, so I'm really glad to be here," he said. "This is a top-notch event." For Stanton, Michigan's Bill Simpson, the nationals are also about competing against himself. After a challenging appearance at last year's TBF championship, he was ready to improve his finish. "Last time I finished dead last," he said. "This time around I have something to prove, and am hopefully going to take a little revenge on the lake." As the last of the boats roared away into the distance, Cartlidge reflected on the challenges facing Simpson and his fellow competitors. "Today is all about overcoming their nerves and adapting to whatever changes the weather brings," he said, noting that even a decent Day 1 showing could set an angler up to grab the lead on Day 2. "The good thing about Grand Lake is anybody can catch a 20- to 25-pound bag, so everybody's in it through tomorrow," he said. In addition to offering cash and prizes, the event will catapult top finishers into further competitions. Each division winner receives a paid entry into the prestigious BFL All-American Tournament. The overall Boater and Non-Boater champions also receive an invitation to fish the FLW Forrest Wood Cup, and win a coveted TBF Living The Dream Package. The Boater's package includes paid entry fees to the FLW Tour as a touring pro, plus cash, the use of a custom-wrapped Chevy truck and Ranger boat for the year, and a travel stipend for each event. The top Non-Boater will receive fully paid entry fees into the Rayovac Series of choice. Additional cash and prizes up for grabs include a new, fully-rigged Ranger Z 518c to the top Ranger Cup-qualified boater, and $5,000 to the top non-boater in the Ranger Cup Program. Plus, the Grand Lake Extravaganza offers the chance at catching a tagged fish worth $250,000. Along with the thrill of world-class tournament competition, anglers fishing the TBF National Championship are treated to the use of a brand-new, fully-rigged Ranger boat during the event. Plus, all boat gas, oil and lunches are provided free of charge courtesy of TBF and FLW. The TBF National Championship runs April 10-12 on Grand Lake. Take-offs all three days will be held at Wolf Creek Park, beginning at 7 a.m. on Day 1 and Day 2, and 6:45 a.m. on Day 3. Weigh-ins Day 1 and 2 will be held at Wolf Creek beginning at 3 p.m. On Day 3, the 2014 national champions will be crowned on the FLW stage at the John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers, Arkansas. Held in conjunction with the FLW Tour's Beaver Lake tournament, the final day's festivities include the FLW Expo beginning at noon; TBF weigh-in at 3 p.m.; and FLW Tour weigh-in at 4 p.m. All activities are free and open to the public. The TBF National Championship is produced by a partnership between The Bass Federation and FLW Outdoors. Sponsors include Chevy, Ranger Boats, Evinrude, Cabela's, Solar Bat, Berkley, Lowrance, Power-Pole, Indigo Sky Casino, Grand Lake Association and Travel Oklahoma. For details, visit bassfederation.com, contact TBF National Headquarters at (580) 765-9031.

Tags: morning-story 

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A Capital Challenge

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Northern Rayovacs Kick Off on the James

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Shallow, Deep and in Between at Eufaula

A couple of weeks ago Eufaula was high and off-color, and the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Quaker State that begins this morning was shaping up to be a shallow-water showdown. The lake has fallen by a couple of inches since then, however, and now the odds are even that both inshore and offshore patterns will be in play. In fact, one Eufaula expert who isn’t fishing the tournament expects it will take a mixture of patterns to make it to Sunday’s championship round and claim the $100,000 that goes to the winner. READ MORE »

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Anything Goes at the Cal Delta

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In or Out on Kentucky Lake

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Texoma Tough, but Stabilizing

As of press time, we were unable to confirm whether or not Troy Broussard has ever suffered a barnyard assault by any beast of burden. Nevertheless, his colorful metaphor bespeaks a challenging scenario facing the Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division field on Lake Texoma for this week’s finale, which is presented by Evinrude. From Broussard’s facebook page: “Well, after three full days [of practice] on Lake Texoma, I can honestly say that I compare this to getting kicked in the face by a mule. It’s brutal.” Allusions aside, the big Ouachita River reservoir straddling the Texas-Oklahoma border has indeed shown its persnickety side of late. Blame Mother Nature for that. READ MORE »

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Tricky Transition at Beaver

Though Beaver Lake is an annual stop for the Walmart FLW Tour, that doesn’t mean it is an easy lake to decipher. This year’s event, which is presented by Rayovac, is later into the spring than usual and is causing some major head scratching among the 154 pros in the field. There’s no doubt that some fish can be found on beds, however, they are mostly small. The consensus is that a lot of fish are stuck in limbo between the spawn and prespawn phase on this White River impoundment. READ MORE »

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Fog Delays Grand Lake Start

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Weather Woes Greet College Anglers

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Swollen Rayburn Challenges Anglers

High water, high winds and high hopes – that’s the forecast for the Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division event on Sam Rayburn Reservoir presented by Mercury, which kicked off today at the Umphrey Family Pavilion. Torrential rains of recent weeks have swollen this Angelina River impoundment, and a huge downpour last weekend has all but stymied efforts to lower the water level. Currently, the lake sits about 5 feet above normal – a level not seen here in more than 15 years. Realistically, anglers aren’t looking for much, if any, decline this week – particularly given the approaching storm system. READ MORE »

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Front and Center

There is little doubt it’s coming. The uncertainty lies in what will happen because of it. If the forecast holds true, at some point this evening the severe weather system that dropped tornados across the central plains Wednesday will arrive at Lewis Smith Lake. Along with the rain and thunder, the front promises to bring with it a significant drop in temperature, with lows projected in the low 30s by the weekend. It’s a storm that looms over the 154 pros and co-anglers set to fish the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Evinrude and hosted by the Walker County Chamber of Commerce. And while they, the anglers, should stay dry, the weather might be the key question mark for a tournament already overflowing with them. READ MORE »

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Record Catch for Record College Field?

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Guntersville Grab Bag

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Toho Midday Report Day 2

If you’ve been following the FLW On The Water feed, you might have seen a slight uptick in the reports in the last hour or so. A crisp north wind, which was cold enough to force many anglers into their rain gear this morning, seems to have tapered off to a breeze. Down south on Kissimmee the sun is shining. And as the weather has improved, so too has the bite – as evidenced by the sudden surge in fish-catching reports. The increase in action is good news for many anglers who experienced slower fishing this morning than yesterday. Stacey King, who came into today in second place, is among that group. Unfortunately for day-one leader JT Kenney, “slow” for King is still pretty good. He’s got a limit, including a pair of 4-pounders, and has already culled. That makes King our unofficial leader right now. READ MORE »

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Mighty Amistad Issues a Challenge

Legendary south Texas reservoir Lake Amistad has hosted some of FLW’s most infamous smash-fests – the kind of tournaments where anglers weren’t challenged to catch fish, but were pushed to keep up with the competition when 20- and even 30-pound stringers were being hauled across the stage. READ MORE »

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Heating Up on Havasu

Lake Havasu City, Ariz. – Warming weather could provide the spark that is needed to ignite a big-time bite on Lake Havasu this week for the first event of the 2015 Rayovac FLW Series Western Division, which is presented by Mercury. Past FLW events on Havasu have been plagued by lower temperatures and strong winds that slowed the bite – fishing was good, but the anglers didn’t experience the lake’s full potential. The last few days on the Colorado River impoundment, however, have seen temperatures near 80 degrees with nearly no wind. As it stands now, the forecast for competition days is calling for more of the same, and many of the 152 pros in this tournament feel like that could open things up. READ MORE »