Six berths in the 2009 Bassmaster Classic will be up for grabs when 55 of the world's best amateur anglers compete Nov. 5-7 on Milford Lake out of Junction City, Kan., in the 2008 BASS Federation Nation Championship.While the 55 anglers will compete against each other for the title and top prize of a $64,000 Skeeter/Yamaha boat package, they'll also be competing within one of six geographical divisions for a coveted Bassmaster Classic berth. The top finisher in each division will become part of the 51-angler field for the Feb. 20-22 Classic on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La.Besides one of the six Classic spots and the first-prize package, the winner of the Federation Nation Championship will receive an invitation to join the top tier of professional bass fishing, the 2009 Bassmaster Elite Series.
Bassmaster.com will present live, streaming video and real-time leaderboards each day of the competition beginning at 4 p.m. ET. Daily results and photo galleries will also be available at Bassmaster.com.Anglers will launch at 7:05 a.m. CT Wednesday-Friday from Milford State Park South Ramp, 3612 State Park Road, Milford, Kan. The daily weigh-ins will begin at 3 p.m. CT in Heritage Park in historic downtown Junction City. All events are free and open to the public.To qualify for the Federation Nation Championship, 53 of the anglers had to fish their way through a challenging series of local and regional Federation Nation tournaments. Each emerging championship contender represents one of 47 states or six foreign countries, including Italy, Zimbabwe, Mexico, South Africa, Canada and Japan.The final two qualifiers were automatic entries: last year's champion, 36-year-old Jeff Freeman from Max Meadows, Va., and the Paralyzed Veterans of America Bass Tour's reigning Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year, Dean Morris of Tavares, Fla.
The 55-angler field will test their skills against the smallmouth, spotted and largemouth bass of Milford Lake, a 16,000-acre impoundment that's the largest lake in Kansas.Freeman, a veteran Federation competitor who has won two Elite-level co-angler competitions, said he did not scout Milford Lake, but estimates that the winning weight will be about 25 pounds. He expects smallmouth to make up most of the five-fish limits."Milford's predominant species is smallmouth," he said. "I grew up fishing for smallmouth on my home waters, so I'm excited about the fact that it is smallmouth. It's definitely going to get cold sometime during the tournament, which will make the smallmouth bite better, so I'm praying for cold and snow."Freeman said he has a game plan, but his only hint about it was one statement: "Whoever makes the most casts will win," meaning covering a lot of water will be key.Greg Alexander, a 46-year-old home builder from Hebron, Md., qualified for the championship by winning the Mid-Atlantic Divisional in September. He is expecting a winning weight of about 20 pounds.This will be my fifth championship qualification in the past six years," he said. "I've never made the Classic, but I've come close, and that's what we all want to do. I'm hoping I can get there this time.
"I haven't been able to scout Milford, so I'll just have the practice day before the tournament to figure it out," he said. "I think sometimes I do better with less practice because I'm more of an instinct fisherman. I'm very comfortable with smallmouth fishing — I'm good at finding humps and ridges that smallmouth hold on. I'm expecting a real tough bite."
For more information on which states line up with each division, visit bassmaster.com. In addition to the FNC, the 2008 Junior Bassmaster World Championship and Bassmaster CastingKids National Championship will be contested on Nov. 8 in Junction City. Geary County State Lake will host the Junior World Championship, while the CastingKids National contestants will compete at Junction City High School.Sponsors of the Federation Nation include Toyota Tundra, Purolator, Skeeter, Yamaha, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, MotorGuide, Lowrance Electronics, Advance Auto Parts, Evan Williams Bourbon, Longhorn and Ramada Worldwide.Local sponsors of the Federation Nation Championship include Junction City and Geary County, Kansas.
2008 BASS FEDERATION NATION CHAMPIONSHIP QUALIFIERS
1. Greg Alexander Hebron, Md.
2. Chris Barnett Harrogate, Tenn.
3. Mike Baskett Salem, Ore.
4. Ken Baumgardner Monongahela, Pa.
5. Leo Bevelaqua Wyoming , R.I.
6. Rick Billings Rochester, Minn.
7. Simone Bruccoleri Italy
8. Glen Bruce Saco, Maine
9. Larry Cahan East Palatka, Fla.
10. Victor Calvillo Mexico
11. Rick Culver Taylor, Utah
12. Robert Degraffenreid Oklahoma City, Okla.
13. Mike Desforges Burlington, Ontario, Canada
14. Matthew Desimone East Berlin, Conn.
15. Jay Evans Corvallis, Mont.
16. Brady Farrell Fort Atkinson, Wis.
17. Eric Femiak Taunton, Mass.
18. Terry Fitzpatrick Waukon, Iowa
19. Edward Fore Concord, Va.
20. Jeff Freeman Max Meadows, Va.
21. Roy Galbraith Winfield, Ala.
22. Dave Gerhardt Durango, Colo.
23. Jeff Guerrette Glendale, Ariz.
24. Jeff Hager Alexis, N.C.
25. David Halcomb Elkview, W. Va.
26. Mark Hensiek England, Ark.
27. Brian Hensley Edwardsburg, Mich.
28. Teb Jones Hattiesburg, Miss.
29. Gerry Jooste Harare, Zimbabwe
30. Jim Kelly Lincoln, Neb.
31. Matt King Olathe, Kan.
32. Jamie Laiche Gonzales, La.
33. Brian Maloney Osage Beach, Mo.
34. Joe Matt Syracuse, N.Y.
35. Kent Miller Byron, Mich.
36. Katsunori Mitsuhashi Japan
37. Dean Morris Tavares, Fla.
38. Tim Myers Las Vegas, Nev.
39. James O'Malley Elmhurst, Ill.
40. Bubba O'Neill Evanston, Wyo.
41. Shane Oltjenbruns Neligh, Neb.
42. Brandon Palaniuk Hayden, Idaho
43. Scott Parker Londonderry, N.H.
44. Waine Pittman Villa Rica, Ga.
45. Bradley Roy Lancaster, Ky.
46. Bryan Schmidt Olney, Texas
47. Jerry Sersen Joppa, Md.
48. Skip Sjobeck Randolph, Vt.
49. William Smith Moncks Corner, S.C.
50. Chris Smith Absecon, N.J.
51. Franco Vallejos Albuquerque, N.M.
52. Justy Varkevisser South Africa
53. Brad Wall Clarksville, Ohio
54. Les Whitley Kennewick, W. Va.
55. Pat Wilson Penngrove, Calif.