KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Sheron Brown of Worcester, Mass., couldn't keep his emotions in check at the BASS Federation Nation Championship on Florida's Lake Tohopekaliga. Wrapped up in the excitement of the amateur championship, the 35-year-old cried three times on the opening day but still managed to boat 10 pounds, 12 ounces of bass on a stingy Thursday to lead his closest competition, Kurt Walters of Grand Junction, Colo., by more than 1 pound.
Brown typifies the grassroots appeal of the Federation Nation. The computer operator's dream is to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic, bass fishing's premier event, and he has a chance if he finishes as the top angler in the Eastern Division. The winner in each of six geographic divisions will receive a coveted berth in the 2008 Bassmaster Classic, scheduled for Feb. 22-24 on South Carolina's Lake Hartwell.
Fishing fans can catch all of the action among the 55 amateur anglers Saturday, Feb. 16 at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN2.
"My emotions are all over the board right now," Brown said. "I'm living the dream right now and just hope that I can hold on. I'm getting such a positive vibe about everything and I don't want to let this go."
Despite not boating a keeper fish until after 11 a.m. ET, four hours into his competition day, Brown was able to capitalize on a late bite, throwing reaction baits to a variety of areas in his "money spot."
He boated his last bass at 2:52 p.m., minutes before he would have to check in. He's optimistic about his chances tomorrow. Considering his fruitless morning Thursday, Brown was planning to switch things up Friday and target deeper water early. He also plans to rely heavily on his other pattern, flipping.
Brown, who described himself as being of modest means, perhaps was most happy to have a working boat. The 21-year-old rig he owns has given him problems in past tournaments, but Brown has had no mechanical problems in this event as BASS supplies each competitor with a new Triton boat for use in the tournament.
A victory would put an end to Brown's boat problems. The winner of the event receives a Triton boat package valued at $50,000 and earns an invitation to the Bassmaster Elite Series, the most visible and prestigious fishing tournament trail.
"I want to fish with the big boys," Brown said of the Elite Series. "And I've got a shot. I just need to continue doing what I've been doing. Perseverance is the name of the game."
Walters, who qualified for the Classic in 1999, finished Thursday with 9 pounds, 3 ounces and leads the Western Division. Complete standings can be found below.
Leading the other divisions were Don Fowler of Cadillac, Mich., with 5 pounds, 4 ounces (Eastern); Leslie Kennedy of Fort Worth, Texas, with 7 pounds, 11 ounces (Central); South African Richard Watson with 7 pounds, 10 ounces (Southern); and Jeff Freeman of Max Meadows, Va., with 7 pounds, 10 ounces.
The event continues through Saturday at Kissimmee's Lakefront Park. Live, streaming video of the daily weigh-ins is available at www.ESPNOutdoors.com.
Event Information: Three day event runs Nov. 8-10. Daily launches at 7 a.m. ET at Kissimmee Lakefront Park. Weigh-ins at the same location starting at 3 p.m. ET. All events are free and open to the public.
What's at stake: A $50,000 Triton/Mercury boat package to the winner and a chance to earn one of six qualifying spots into bass fishing's premier event, the 2008 Bassmaster Classic, and a shot at the $500,000 Classic grand prize. Additionally, the winner of the Federation Nation Championship will earn a berth in the Bassmaster Elite Series. The Classic spots are awarded to the top performer in each of six geographic divisions. A list of anglers competing in the event, the states they represent and which divisions they will compete in can be found below.
Multi-Media Coverage: ESPN2 will air coverage from Lake Toho on Saturday, Feb. 16, at 9 a.m. ET. Streaming video coverage of the daily weigh-ins is available at www.ESPNOutdoors.com. The site will also update fans with real-time leaderboards.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit www.bassmaster.com. Visit www.espnmediazone.com for ESPN's latest releases, schedules and other news, plus photos, video and audio clips and more.