April 12, 2014 by Dan Johnson
ROGERS, Arkansas-In a testament to his faith and fishing skills, James Biggs of Richland Hills, Texas, charged from 17th place on day one to eventual victory in the Boater Division of The Bass Federation's prestigious 2014 National Championship at Grand Lake. Biggs built on his 10-pound, 1-ounce day one basket with a monstrous 19-pound, 5-ounce bag on day two. That catch vaulted him into second place with 29 pounds, 6 ounces, hot on the heels of leader John Talton of Georgetown, Tenn., who finished day two with 29 pounds, 10 ounces. With television cameras rolling and the world watching, Biggs brought a 5-bass limit weighing 14 pounds, 5 ounces to the scale on the final day, bringing his total to 43 pounds, 11 ounces. When Talton, who weighed in last, put up two bass weighing 6 pounds, 10 ounces for a total weight of 36 pounds, 4 ounces, Biggs claimed the crown in front of a roaring crowd gathered at the John Q. Hammons Center. "It's so exciting, and it hasn't totally sunk in yet," he said, visibly shaking with emotion. For Biggs, a firefighter and paramedic by trade, the win marked the culmination of a faith-based confidence that he was destined for victory. "The Lord really blessed me," he said, explaining that for the past several months-including throughout the tournament's ups and downs-he believed he was going to take the championship. "I didn't know how it was going to happen, and it wasn't meant in an arrogant way, but I didn't have any doubts. I fished with that mentality, and it made a difference in the way I processed things on the water." Biggs' tactics hinged on a pair of productive patterns. "I had two things going," he said. "I'd go shallow in the morning, flipping for bucks and the females that had moved up early. After getting a few fish in the boat to settle my nerves, I'd move south and slow-roll an Alabama rig for big fish." He noted that rocky banks and bridge pilings were key structure, especially those situated in bass-funneling creek arm bottlenecks. For Talton, settling for second was tempered by the knowledge that qualifying for the final round had already earned him a trip to the BFL All-American tournament. "I've been thinking about this all week, and I decided, `If I make it to the All-American, that's fine,'" he told the crowd before congratulating Biggs on the win. After a strong south wind on day one ignited the bass he was targeting, Talton rocketed out of the gate, bringing in a 5-bass limit weighing 20 pounds, 1 ounce. But when the wind died on day two, he sacked just four fish weighing 9 pounds, 9 ounces. While the return of a healthy south breeze bode well for him during the final day of competition, he noted that his best action had been coming later in the day. "My fish hadn't been starting to bite until 1 p.m., and we had to be off the water early today," he said. "If we'd had another couple of hours, who knows." In the Non-Boater Division, Don Muir of Perryhall, Md., lead both days one and two. In fact, his 31-pound, 7-ounce total going into the final round offered a 5-pound, 15-ounce advantage over his nearest rival. As it turned out, it was enough to outlast the competition even after blanking on day three. Stephen Scoggin of Lebanon, Tenn., made a run at first with three bass weighing 9 pounds, 13 ounces, but ended up a strong second with a 30-pound total. "It's unbelievable, especially after zeroing on the last day," said Muir, who retired six months ago as a police sergeant after 39 years in law enforcement. "I was nervous all day long. But the good Lord was watching out for me." Muir also attributed a bit of good luck to a coin he found during prefishing. "Wednesday morning, I picked up a penny in the parking lot," he said. It was dated 1983, the year his son was born. "I put it in my pocket. And believe me, when I was listening to the other non-boaters' weights being called out today, I was rubbing that penny." Muir credited friend and fellow bass tournament angler Jeremy Starks for convincing him to try Alabama rigs on Grand Lake. "I'd never fished one before, but he told me several months ago I had to throw them here," he said. "I didn't catch anything on them in practice, but after taking an 8-pounder on an A-rig on day one, I fished them all three days," he said. "I'd throw them on rocky main-lake rocky points, move to the secondary points and then back into the creeks. Most of the fish were on the secondary points. But today they moved and we had to scramble." Held April 10-12 on Grand Lake, the TBF championship pitted 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 received a paid entry into the prestigious BFL All-American Tournament. After day three, top boaters are: 1. James Biggs, Richland Hills, Texas, 13 bass, 43-11 2. John Talton, Georgetown, Tenn., 11 bass, 36-4 3. Dino Moutogiannis, Newington, Conn., 13 bass, 34-13 4. Steve Dinkler, Daniels, W.Va., 11 bass, 32-5 5. Nicholas Fitzsimmons, Lyle, Wash., eight bass, 27-0 6. Jon Griffith, Mesa, Ariz., 10 bass, 21-3 7. Dave Cermak, Hebron, Ind., six bass, 17-10 Top non-boaters are: 1. Don Muir, Perryhall, Md., eight bass, 31-7 2. Stephen Scoggin, Lebanon, Tenn., 11 bass, 30-0 3. Nickolas Marsh, Commerce Twp., Mich., 12 bass, 28-13 4. Richard Vizcarra, Peoria, Ariz., 10 bass, 26-8 5. Brian Maloney, Osage Beach, Mo., 10 bass, 25-10 6. David Simmons, Molalla, Ore., four bass, 13-7 7. Keith Cleary, Bethel, Conn., six bass, 12-3 Overall, boaters brought in 17 bass weighing 44 pounds, 14 ounces. Only one boater recorded a limit. Non-boaters brought eight bass to the scale weighing 21 pounds, 13 ounces. No non-boaters brought in limits. For a full list of results visit: http://bassfederation.com/tournaments/results/federation-championship-results/ The overall boater and non-boater champions 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. As a bonus, Biggs won a brand-new Ranger Z 518c through the Ranger Cup Program. All three days of the TBF National Championship launched at Wolf Creek Park. Day one and two weigh-ins were held lakeside. For day three, the weigh-in moved to the John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers, Arkansas. Held in conjunction with the FLW Tour's Beaver Lake tournament, the final day's festivities included the FLW Expo beginning at noon; TBF weigh-in at 3 p.m.; and FLW Tour weigh-in at 4 p.m. The TBF National Championship is produced by a partnership between The Bass Federation and FLW Outdoors, and TBF national president Robert Cartlidge was quick to acknowledge his appreciation for the collaboration. "I can't tell you how proud we are to be partners with FLW, and how much everything they do for us means to the federation," he said. TBF National Championship 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.