One angler fishing in the BNC on the Ouachita River, Gary Adkins of Wisconsin, has not only secured the opportunity to compete for a berth in the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic, but he also gave his wife and two daughters the joy of watching him thanks to the generosity of his company.
Adkins has worked for Spirit Construction for 20 years and, as a millwright superintendent, he is usually working for three to four weeks before he comes home for just a weekend. In recognition of his qualification at the BNC and his dedication to his job, Spirit Construction paid for his wife, Catherine, and two daughters, Tara and Tory, to fly down and cheer him on in Monroe, La., this week.
"I'm very excited and very appreciative," Adkins said.
Brett Preuett makes his Ouachita predictions.
Having just earned an invite to fish the Elite Series in 2016, Brett Preuett is carting me around looking for Nation anglers to photograph. He knows the Ouachita River very well, and he's been handling the skinny bayou water like he's a seasoned pro.
We spoke to quite a few anglers last night and this morning who told us where they'd be, but plans must have changed as the field is very spread out. We're on the hunt.
We're winding the S-curves looking for a new boat to stop and chat with, but we're having fun just enjoying the scenery.
Josh Bensema and Matt McArdle of Texas A&M University, the reigning champs from the 2015 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship, spoke with youth directors during the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship Thursday.
The young anglers expressed the need for B.A.S.S. Nation clubs to help high school anglers secure fishing programs at their schools. Bensema said it's important for students to learn how to reach out and speak to people, so when it comes time to find sponsors for the high school or college programs they go on to, they can speak easily about their love for and the benefits of the sport.
"They need to learn how to network," Bensema said.
McArdle added that students may need help forming their clubs and convincing administrators of the importance of the high school and college fishing programs, noting that many colleges and universities now offer fishing scholarships.
Green Bay, Wis., native Gary Adkins says he has two fish for a little more than 4 pounds. There isn't another angler within a couple miles of where we are.
Two small fish in the livewell for Missouri's Matt Roberts so far. He said two good ones came off at the boat, but he's confident in finding a limit.
Greg Vance of Iowa heads out for Day 1 on the Ouachita River at the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship out of Monroe, La.
For everyone at the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship this week in Monroe, La., hearing about the military families who benefit from the Folds of Honor was a moment to pause and be grateful for our freedoms.
Diane Nemecek with Folds of Honor expressed her gratitude tonight, too, recognizing the New Hampshire B.A.S.S. Nation and the Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation for their contributions to the charity that provides scholarships to military families who have a disabled or deceased veteran.
Nemecek also awarded the Jared Spickelmier Award to the Idaho B.A.S.S. Nation — the club that Spickelmier was a member of and that also raised the most funds in 2015. The award was renamed in Spickelmier's honor because of his support of Folds of Honor. "He was just a dynamic guy; he didn't have to do it and he did," Nemecek said.
B.A.S.S. Nation chapters and clubs can hold tournaments that benefit Folds of Honors or hold raffles, dinners or other events that contribute to the organization.
And finally, B.A.S.S. Nation director Jon Stewart was called forward to receive the Freedom Warrior award for his "outstanding support of military families." Although she had the award for Stewart at this year's Bassmaster Classic at Lake Hartwell, Nemecek said she "wanted to award it in his element," which was among his B.A.S.S. Nation members.
"It's a tremendous honor to be recognized," Stewart said.
The B.A.S.S. Nation has always been referred to as a family. And that's reinforced when the anglers' families come to the Nation Championship and then they, too, all become family.
Today, the wives of many of the competitors went on a tour of Monroe, La., and for some of them, Monroe is a very foreign place. How could it not be, when you're visiting here from Australia or South Africa or Zimbabwe?
The tour helps the supporters bond with each other and feel at home -- even when they're miles (or thousands of miles) from home.
The tour consisted of a bus ride around the city, a visit to the Chennault Aviation & Military Museum and a nice lunch with a waterfront view.
The museum was a big hit. "What a lovely tribute to those who have served over the years to protect our country," said Audrey McKenney, president of the Colorado B.A.S.S. Nation. "Very nicely done!"
McKenney also suggested that their tour guide, Miss Dorothy, should help Jon Stewart emcee the weigh-ins. "We never stopped laughing!" said McKenney.