GREENVILLE, S.C. – A couple of old hands at expert casting, 9-year-old Sierra Voisin of Ontario, Canada, and Austin Neary, 14, of Crofton, Md., took home a trophy and a $5,000 first-place prize Saturday in the Bassmaster CastingKids National Finals at the Bi-Lo Center.
To make it to the National Finals, the two won in their respective age groups (Voisin, 7-10; Neary 11-14) at the Bassmaster CastingKids National Semifinals in November in Kissimmee, Fla.
The Bassmaster CastingKids program helps children develop fishing skills. Since 1991, CastingKids has more held more than 18,000 events and awarded more than $3.3 million in cash, prizes and scholarships.
Voisin defended her title, having won the 2007 national title.
Her older sisters, including Shauny, a former CastingKids champion, helped teach her how to cast, along with her dad. Sierra admits that she enjoys winning competitions with her sisters.
“At home we practice for an hour,” Voisin said of how she has perfected her casting technique. “Then after we do the chores in the barn, we come up and did four more sets.”
Austin said he and Sierra have gone through the casting ranks together many times, meeting up with each other at semifinals and national finals more than once.
Neary has been participating in CastingKids since he was 10.
“My dad first made the junior youth club, I got into CastingKids and the whole state really did,” Neary said. “We kind of encouraged each other, all my friends. We always had someone to look up to, with (former CastingKids champions) Danny Roselle, Jesse Flowers and Alex Thomas.”
Neary, whose brother, Douglas, was a regional qualifier in 2006, credits his dad with helping him learn the perfect cast, as the two regularly bass fish and Austin’s dad challenges him to cast between rocks and at stumps in the water.
National supporting sponsors for Bassmaster CastingKids include Cabela’s, Toyota Tundra, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Advance Auto Parts, Lowrance Electronics, Motorguide and Zebco.
WEATHER OR NOT. Despite near-freezing temperatures and steady rain, fans on Friday lined the shore and stood on wind-rocked docks to watch the 50 Bassmaster Classic anglers launch their colorful wrapped boats at South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell.
Saturday, when skies were a bit drier and morning temperatures were in the 40s, an even bigger crowd turned out.
“This is a big, big deal,” a woman from Anderson, S.C., told the hosts of Hooked Up, the http://www.Bassmaster.com lakeside Webcast. “I came down to find out what was happening. I had no idea it would be so exciting.”
Classic contenders will take off at 7:15 a.m. Sunday from Portman Marina for the final day of competition. Cellphone text alerts on Bassmaster Classic results are available free of charge to fans who sign up at http://proxy.espn.go.com/mobile/alerts/signup.
GOOD LUCK FROM FALLUJAH. Classic contender Jamie Laiche, a Federation Nation qualifier from Gonzales, La., has a big fan base among American troops stationed in Fallujah, Iraq.
His sister, Kelli Laiche, a 22-year-old corporal in the United States Marine Corps, e-mailed a photo of herself and a group of her fellow Marines holding a big sign that read: “Good Luck, Jamie,” as a surprise for her brother.
As Jamie Laiche walked to the weigh-in scales Friday, the photo was flashed on the big screen above the stage at Greenville’s Bi-Lo Center.
Jamie Laiche weighed in enough bass to take 13th place, the best of the six Federation Nation qualifiers — although Mike Baskett of Salem, Ore., was on his heels in 14th place, 11 ounces back.
KVD’S TWINS HAVE A CLASSIC BIRTHDAY. Jackson and Nicholas VanDam, the twin sons of 2008 Classic contender Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., turned 11 on Friday.
“That’s why I caught so many fish today,” quipped VanDam, who was in third place after Day One. “I had to do well on my kids’ birthday.”
A three-time Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year, VanDam has competed in 18 Classics. He won in 2001 and 2005.
WORTH THE TRIP: TACKLE WAREHOUSE. The owners of online retailer Tackle Warehouse were excited to visit the 2008 Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo, though it meant they had to drag staff and vendors cross-country from California, where the company is based.
That was a good decision. The aisles of their huge exhibition space were so packed, it was painful to navigate them.
The few dozen vendors exhibiting in the Tackle Warehouse area were those who had some of the most popular products, especially in the West. Skinny Bear’s Shad Eye and Omega’s Derek Remitz Signature Series football jig were among the hottest.
Well-known companies such as Reaction Innovations, as well as lesser-known companies such as Skinny Bear Bass Jigs, Omega Custom Tackle and Black Dog Bait Co. garnered plenty of attention.
SKEETER’S LOUISIANA ROOTS. With the announcement of Shreveport-Bossier City, La., as the site of the 2009 Bassmaster Classic, bass boat maker Skeeter feels like it will be right at home.
Company founder Holmes Thurmond built the first Skeeter bass boat in 1948 in his garage in Shreveport. The bass-rich waters of the area served as the boat’s testing grounds.
Skeeter, the official boat sponsor of the Classic, is located in Kilgore, Texas, less than an hour’s drive from Shreveport.
YAMAHA ENJOYS HOT START. Yamaha-powered anglers competing in the Classic captured four of the top 10 positions Friday, putting an exclamation point on Yamaha’s return to BASS as the Official Outboard Sponsor of BASS during its 40th anniversary celebration.
Driving boats powered by V MAX® Series 2 outboards, the Yamaha anglers made an impressive showing. Cliff Pace placed fifth with a weight of 18 pounds, 10 ounces, while Mike Iaconelli, Todd Faircloth and Alton Jones captured the eighth, ninth and 10th spots, respectively. Faircloth had the Purolator Big Bass of the Day, with a 6-2 largemouth.
BERKLEY BOOTH HUMMING. The Berkley folks are always at the top of the list of people who best use the Classic as a vehicle for introducing new products.
They certainly did not disappoint this year. Whether it was the company’s new line of signature series jigs, worms or hollow-body swimbait, they went fast.
Among the jigs, the company released signature series offerings for Mike Iaconelli (finesse) and Hank Parker (football).
The PowerBait Hollow Belly swimbaits, which tap the swimbait craze now blanketing the country, are some of the most realistic and come in popular colors like ayu, gizzard shad and blueback herring. They also come with rigging instructions and a small sinker for help in weighting the baits.
Also at the Expo, the all PowerBait Heavy Weight Sinkworm and Heavy Weight Fat Sinkworm have an awesome writhing action on the fall. They are said to be ideal for suspended fish, but can also be used for dead-sticking, wacky-rigging and Texas-rigging.
Official sponsors for the 2008 Bassmaster Classic: Toyota Tundra, Advance Auto Parts, Berkley, Lowrance, Mercury, Purolator, Skeeter and Yamaha.
For 40 years, BASS has served as the authority on bass fishing. With its considerable multi-media platforms and expansive tournament trail, BASS is guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans. Through its industry leading publications Bassmaster Magazine, BASS Times and Fishing Tackle Retailer and comprehensive web properties in http://www.Bassmaster.com and http://www.ESPNOutdoors.com, the organization is committed to delivering content true to the lifestyle. Additionally, television programming on ESPN2 continues to provide relevant content from tips and techniques to in-depth tournament coverage to passionate audiences.
The organization oversees the prestigious Bassmaster tournament trail which includes the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bassmaster Opens, Women’s Bassmaster Tour and the Bassmaster Classic, the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing. Through its grassroots network, the BASS Federation Nation, BASS sanctions more than 20,000 events annually.
BASS also offers a wide array of services to its more than 525,000 members while spearheading progressive, positive change on issues related to conservation and water access. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.