Ultimate Bass

Virginia High School Senior Fishing Bassmaster Opens

Jelani “JJ” Hennessey, a 17-year-old from Bowling Green, Va.A successful Bassmaster Open co-angler and junior-level BASS Federation Nation competitor, Jelani “JJ” Hennessey, a 17-year-old from Bowling Green, Va., has registered to compete in all nine 2009 Bassmaster Open events.

registered to compete in all nine 2009 Bassmaster Open eventsA successful Bassmaster Open co-angler and junior-level BASS Federation Nation competitor, Jelani “JJ” Hennessey, a 17-year-old from Bowling Green, Va., has registered to compete in all nine 2009 Bassmaster Open events.

It’s a heavy commitment for the high school senior, who will turn 18 on Jan. 29. Coincidentally, that’s the first day he will compete as a pro: the Open season begins with the Jan. 29-31 Bassmaster Southern Open on the Harris Chain of Lakes out of Tavares, Fla.

After that event, Hennessey will continue to compete in the full Open schedule: two more Southern Opens, three Centrals and three Opens in the Northern division, which BASS added for the 2009 season. Hennessey’s travels will take him from Florida to Maryland, Alabama, New York, Texas, Ohio, South Carolina and twice to Louisiana.

“I decided the more tournaments I get into, the more experience I’ll get, and the more I’ll improve my skills,” said Hennessey, who wants to become a tournament angler.

In 2008, Hennessey entered six Open events as a co-angler. In the co-angler standings, he finished 16th in the Central division and 20th in the Southern. He had two top-10 finishes.

Amazingly, he did all that while completing his junior year at Caroline High School in Millford, Va., and didn’t let the tournament schedule get in the way of his studies.

Hennessey got his class assignments before each Open event, and packed his books and computer along with his tackle. He became so good at juggling schoolwork and BASS competitions, he maintained his honor-roll status.

“As soon as I came off the water each day, I started my homework,” he said.

Now a senior, he’s hoping his studies and fishing will mesh as smoothly as they did in 2008.

“My teachers and principal are very supportive — a couple of them actually have professional anglers in their families, so they know what it’s like,” he said. “They say that as long as I keep up with my schoolwork and maintain good grades and stay on the honor roll, they’ll support me.”

Hennessey decided long ago to become a professional angler. His first exposure to competition was in junior BASS Federation Nation events. He fished his way through regional competitions to qualify for Virginia’s junior state championship in 2007.

Even though he competed as a co-angler in 2008, he brought his boat to events so he could practice on the water. His mother, Angela Cates, traveled with him, but it was Hennessey who drove the tow vehicle and maintained the boat.

“She’s very supportive,” Hennessey said of his mother. “She loves the idea of me going out there and fishing, following my dream.”

The dream includes, of course, qualifying one day for the Bassmaster Classic and the Bassmaster Elite Series. But for 2009, his goal is modest. He said he’d be satisfied to finish the three Open divisions in the top 50 in the standings.

As he makes his bid to be a successful professional angler, he’s also making plans to fulfill another life goal. He wants to be a neurosurgeon. He has applied to three universities with pre-med programs. But he won’t give up his fishing for college.

“I’m definitely going to go to college and fish at the same time,” he said.

Meanwhile, he’s working on upgrading his boat rig and developing more sponsorships. He claims two solid sponsors now: a Bass Pro Shops store in Baltimore, near his former home; and Max Service Center in Ashland, Va. He’s lining up seminars and speaking engagements, and already has one scheduled this summer.

CLASSIC SUPPORT: As they vie for the $500,000 first-place prize Feb. 20-22 out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La., the 51 anglers in the 2009 Bassmaster Classic may not realize how many Louisiana organizations came together to make the competition happen.

One of those vital Classic supporters is the Red River Waterway Commission (RRWC), sponsor of the daily Classic launches at 7:15 a.m. at Red River South Marina and Resort, Highway 71 South, Bossier City.

Based in Natchitoches, La., the RRWC oversees commercial and recreational development of the 225-mile navigable Red River Waterway from Shreveport-Bossier City to its link with the Mississippi.

Before the Red River Waterway was completed in 1994, year-round navigation along the entire river wasn’t possible. Now, with all five dams completed, safe commercial and recreational navigation is a reality. Besides commercial port development, the RRWC has been instrumental in the growth of recreational facilities, such as marinas and boat launch ramps.

“The Red River Waterway Commission is proud to be a part of the 2009 Bassmaster Classic and the opportunity to showcase the Red River and all its amenities,” said Ken Guidry, Executive Director of the Red River Waterway Commission.

The RRWC also provides extensive information to the pubic at http://www.redriverwaterway.com.

Other local sponsors of the 2009 Classic include the state of Louisiana, cities of Shreveport and Bossier City, Caddo Parish Commission and Bossier Parish Police Jury, Shreveport-Bossier Convention & Tourist Bureau, AT&T Real Yellow Pages and Barksdale Air Force Base.

The host organization is the Shreveport Regional Sports Authority.

THREE-LANE SPONSORSHIP: Known as “The Brothers” on the Bassmaster Elite Series trail, Chris and Bobby Lane have gone in with a third brother, Bassmaster Open pro Arnie Lane, on a new sponsorship deal.

Chris, of Winter Haven, Fla., Bobby, of Lakeland, Fla., and Arnie, also of Lakeland, will be promoting Azuma Lures this season as part of the new lure company’s sponsorship of the three pros, according to Chris.

Based in Sarasota, Fla., Azuma (http://www.fishazuma.com) makes a variety of hard baits and tackle-storage accessories.

Also, Power-Pole has upped its support for Chris Lane in 2009. He said the maker of the shallow-water anchoring system will be his title sponsor and again will be featured in his boat wrap.

“It’s a multiyear deal,” Lane said. “They’ve given me the opportunity to be more at ease financially, so I can concentrate on my fishing. It’s exciting and I look forward to being with Power-Pole for a long time.”

DUCKETT TEAMS WITH LASERLURE: The 2007 Bassmaster Classic champion, Boyd Duckett of Demopolis, Ala., soon will be on his way to Shreveport-Bossier City, La., for the Feb. 20-22 Bassmaster Classic.

And just in time for his third Bassmaster Classic appearance, the Bassmaster Elite Series pro has secured a new sponsorship with LaserLure, a lure company based in Shreveport.

“Nothing could please us more than knowing that when the Bassmaster Classic comes to Shreveport in February, Boyd Duckett will be tossing our lures and telling people the terrific things he’s found out about them,” said Mike Lopez, LaserLure’s national sales manager.

Said Duckett: “LaserLure is a terrific, growing company. It’s always my intention to work with folks who let me have a voice into how their products are advanced and marketed. LaserLure is giving me that opportunity, and I’m excited about this partnership.”

LaserLure (http://www.laserlure.com) describes its baits as “water-activated, computer-controlled lures that come in five body styles.”

GETTING READY: “A tournament is like a puzzle, and I want to get as much done as possible beforehand, especially if it’s going to help me figure out where to put the rest of the pieces.” — 2008 Bassmaster Classic champion Alton Jones of Waco, Texas, in his Jan. 12 blog on Bassmaster.com about organizing his tackle for the Feb. 20-22 Classic on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La.

For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit Bassmaster.com. Visit ESPNOutdoorsMedia.com for BASS and ESPN Outdoors’ latest releases, schedules and other news, plus photos, video, audio clips and more.

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