Amateur Anglers Compete For Bassmaster Classic

Amateur Anglers Compete For Bassmaster Classic Berths in BASS Federation Nation Championship

Amateur Anglers Compete For Bassmaster Classic Berths in BASS Federation Nation Championship

Florida’s Lake Tohopekaliga promises to be a puzzle for many of the 55 amateur anglers in the Nov. 8-10 BASS Federation Nation Championship out of Kissimmee, Fla.

Winners in each of the event’s six competition divisions will earn berths in the 2008 Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 22-24 on South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell, where the six amateurs will go head-to-head with pros for bass fishing’s most prestigious trophy and $500,000.

The overall champion of the event, the angler who posts the heaviest three-day weight, also will take home a $50,000 Triton/Mercury boat package and an invitation to join the 2008 Bassmaster Elite Series, the top level of competitive bass fishing.

Daily launches will be at 6 a.m. ET, Nov. 8-10, at Kissimmee Lakefront Park. Weigh-ins will also be held at the park beginning at 3 p.m. ET. All tournament events are free and open to the public.

Live, streaming video of each day’s weigh-in will be provided by starting at 3 p.m. ET. TV coverage will air at 9 a.m. ET, Feb. 16, 2008, on ESPN2.

Fifty-three anglers from the field of 55 qualified for the Toho event through BASS Federation Nation divisional tournaments, with representatives from 47 states as well as Canada, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mexico, Japan and Italy.

The other two qualifiers are Kurt Glass of Grovetown, Ga., who earned his entry when he was crowned the Paralyzed Veterans of America Angler of the Year, and defending champion Royce Dennington of Barnsdall, Okla., a 39-year-old science teacher.

“A Florida lake will be a new experience for me,” said Dennington, who competed outside Oklahoma for the first time when he took his Federation Nation Championship title last year on Alabama’s Lake Neely Henry. “As soon as the site was announced (Sept. 24) it was off limits, so I didn’t have a chance to practice there. But I know the grass and shallow water of Toho will be a big change for me.

One contender who has an edge is Florida qualifier, J. Nobel Willits, 31, of Altamonte Springs, which is about an hour from Toho. He said he has fished the lake for the past eight years but hasn’t been there since May.

“I feel I have somewhat of a home-field advantage,” said Willits, an investigator for the Florida Department of Transportation. “If you have never been there it can be intimidating, especially if you’re not used to fishing grass — it’s everywhere — but if you are skilled in grass, you have a chance. It’s a lake full of big fish, so anyone could stumble on them.”

Willits said the tournament likely will be won on a wide range of patterns that might include working shallow grass and deeper-water hydrilla by flipping, Carolina-rigging or throwing topwaters. The Florida angler has his sights set on one of the coveted Classic berths.

“I’m sure once I’d get there, a little nerves will creep in, but I think it would be an enjoyable experience as an amateur,” Willits said.

Dennington’s Federation Nation Championship win got him into the 2007 Classic, in which he posted a 21st-place finish.

“It’s a great experience,” said Dennington of his championship title. “I hope I can repeat but with this field, it will be a tough task.”

BASS Federation Nation Championship Contenders

Royce Dennington, Oklahoma

Don Jenkins, Pennsylvania

Carl S. Alexander Jr., Vermont
Abe Kalechman, Connecticut
Sheron K. Brown, Massachusetts
Gary Clawson, New Hampshire
Christopher T. Loftus, New York
Frank Ramsay, Ontario, Canada
Dale Simmons, Maine
Michael Wolfenden, Rhode Island

Kyle Christopher, Kentucky
Mike Prindle, Georgia
Mike Keel, Alabama
Fred O’Quinn, South Carolina
Mark Pierce, Tennessee
Patrick Tierney, North Carolina
Richard Watson, South Africa
J. Nobel Willits, Florida

Darin E. Doll, Pennsylvania
Jeff Freeman, Virginia
Moosa Ismail, Zimbabwe
David McKinney, West Virginia
Daniel Rodriguez, Maryland
Shelton C. Walters Jr., Delaware
Eric “Woody” Woodward, New Jersey

Scott Hamel, Kansas
Leslie Kennedy, Texas
Pat Klausen, Nebraska
Jamie Laiche, Louisiana
Pablo Leo, Mexico
Shane Long, Missouri
Hollis Polk, Mississippi
Lee Sanders, Oklahoma
Doug Thompson, Arkansas

Mike Baskett, Oregon
Jeff Guerrette, Arizona
John Mace, Washington
Jesse Milicevic, Nevada
Katunori Mitsuhashi, Japan
Sidney Reeves, Wyoming
Ben Schilling, Montana
Brent Shores, Idaho
Mark “Chief” Torrez, California
Larry Triplett, Colorado
Franco Vallejos, New Mexico
Kurt Walters, Utah

Larry Coleman, Illinois
Ron Fabiszak, Indiana
Don Fowler, Michigan
Brent Haimes, Minnesota
Nicola Panareo, Italy
Justin Rowse, South Dakota
Steve Smith, Ohio
Jason Stangel, Wisconsin
James Sullivan, Iowa

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