April 11, 2014 by Dan Johnson
GROVE, Oklahoma-After bringing a five-bass limit weighing 20 pounds, 1 ounce to the scale on day one of The Bass Federation's 2014 National Championship at Grand Lake, John Talton of Georgetown, Tenn., managed just four fish weighing 9 pounds, 9 ounces on day two. Still, it was enough to maintain his lead in the Boater Division and secure a slot in the final showdown of the three-day event.
Talton holds a 4-ounce advantage over second-place boater James Biggs of Richland Hills, Texas, who vaulted from 17th place on day one into second on the wings of a 19-pound, 5-ounce limit.
"It was tough," said Talton. "There was no wind today, and that hurt." Indeed, while a powerful south wind gusting to 35 mph fueled bass activity along points and other key structure on day one, calm conditions left the iconic impoundment's surface relatively listless for most of day two. "I had two fish by 1 o'clock today, then made a move and got two more keepers," he added. "Four bites, total."
On the positive side, Talton noted a warming trend that continues to push daytime air temperatures into the 80s has driven water temps higher as well. With prespawn bass poised to invade the shallows, this could trigger the mass migration many anglers believe might produce a flurry of 20-pound-plus baskets.
A decorated tournament competitor, Talton reflected on the differences between Grand Lake and his home waters in Tennessee and northern Alabama. "Chickamauga and Guntersville have a lot of grass and shallow flats," he said. "This lake seems to me like it's mainly bank fishing, without ledges or flats."
After struggling in practice-boating just four fish in three days-Talton came out swinging on day one. And while day two was a bit more challenging, he believes his patterns will produce again Saturday. As the dust settled after the day two weigh-in, however, he took a moment to savor the feeling of topping the leaderboard two days straight. "It's awesome," he grinned before heading down the dock to begin the process of gearing up for the final leg of the competition.
For his part, Biggs has twice gambled on getting the big bite, tapping the far end of a 30-mile milk run for a shot at game-changing bass. "On day one, it didn't happen," he said. Still, his 10-pound, 1-ounce basket left him just 2 pounds, 11 ounces out of first place in the Central Region standings. After putting a pair of keepers in the livewell on day two, he made the decision to swing for the fences once again. "Today it paid off," he said.
While many anglers cursed the lack of wind, Biggs welcomed the calm weather. "It made for a better boat ride and more enjoyable day of fishing," he said. As for his plans to topple Talton on day three, he's keeping it simple. "I'm going to say my prayers tonight, fish clean tomorrow and let what happens happen," he said.
While Biggs blossomed, many anglers shared Talton's frustrations in finding bass harder to come by on day two. Don Muir of Perryhall, Md., also struggled. After sacking day one's biggest basket-a 20-pound, 2-ounce limit-to take the overall lead in the Non-Boater Division, he added just three bass weighing 11 pounds, 5 ounces to his total on day two. It was enough to build a 5-pound, 15-ounce cushion between his nearest competitor, but less than he'd hoped to bring to the scale.
Both days, Muir relied on a tactic with which he as little experience but growing confidence. "Once again I threw an Alabama rig all day," he said. "But today was definitely a lot tougher. I had just five bites and three keepers." Meanwhile, non-boater Nickolas Marsh of Commerce Twp., Mich., moved up from third place on day one into the number two spot with a five-bass limit weighing 12 pounds, 4 ounces.
Running April 10-12, the TBF championship pits the top 94 anglers from the federation's seven regions against one another for more than $200,000 in cash and prizes. Divided equally into boater and non-boater divisions, all anglers competed the first two days of the event. The top boater and non-boater from each region move on to the final day. Regardless of their day three finish, each regional winner receives a paid entry into the prestigious BFL All-American Tournament.
By region, top boaters who are headed into the final round are:
Central: James Biggs, Richland Hills, Texas, eight bass, 29-6
Eastern: Dino Moutogiannis, Newington, Conn., 10 bass, 28-12
Mid-Atlantic: Steve Dinkler, Daniels, W.Va., nine bass, 26-13
Northern: Dave Cermak, Hebron, Ind., six bass, 17-10
Northwest: Nicholas Fitzsimmons, Lyle, Wash., five bass, 19-3
Southern: John Talton, Georgetown, Tenn., nine bass, 29-10
Southwest: Jon Griffith, Mesa, Ariz., eight bass, 16-0
By region, top non-boaters headed into the day-three finals are:
Central: Brian Maloney, Osage Beach, Mo., nine bass, 23-11
Eastern: Keith Cleary, Bethel, Conn., six bass, 12-3
Mid-Atlantic: Don Muir, Perryhall, Md., eight bass, 31-7
Northern: Nickolas Marsh, Commerce Twp., Mich., 10 bass, 25-8
Northwest: David Simmons, Molalla, Ore., four bass, 13-7
Southern: Stephen Scoggin, Lebanon, Tenn., eight bass, 20-3
Southwest: Richard Vizcarra, Peoria, Ariz., eight bass, 19-12
Overall, boaters brought in 135 bass weighing 365 pounds, 15 ounces. The catch included 11 limits. Non-boaters brought 102 bass to the scale weighing 277 pounds, 5 ounces. Non-boaters recorded seven limits.
For a full list of results visit:
At the end of day three, the overall boater and non-boater champions will receive an invitation to fish the FLW Forrest Wood Cup, where all competitors are guaranteed a check, and the winner receives $500,000. The top boater and non-boater also 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.
With so much at stake, TBF national president Robert Cartlidge expects finalists to feel more than a little pressure on day three. "These 14 anglers are all on their way to the BFL All-American, and right now they're excited about that," he said. "But tonight it's going to sink in that tomorrow they're fishing for the Forrest Wood Cup and the chance to live their dreams on the FLW tour and Rayovac series. At some point in the morning, you're going to see the jitters and the nerves that one of them could be fishing for half a million dollars-and that's what the Living The Dream program is all about."
Additional cash and prizes 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.
All three days of the TBF National Championship are set for Grand Lake. Day three take-off is 6:45 a.m. at Wolf Creek Park. The 2014 TBF 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.