'Rivals' head to October BASS Federation Nation Championship
Joe Matt did not win the BASS Federation Nation Eastern Divisional last week in Connecticut. But the Syracuse, N.Y., angler emerged victorious from his 11th divisional event because he qualified for his fifth and third consecutive BASS Federation Nation Championship.
Also a winner was Scott Parker of Londonderry, N.H., for wrapping up his 14th divisional and qualifying for his fourth championship. He now has a shot at his second Bassmaster Classic qualification.
Matt and Parker are just two of the amateur anglers who have qualified from 47 states and three foreign countries to compete Oct. 27-29 on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La. There, the top finisher within each of six divisions will earn an entry in the Feb. 18-20 Classic on the Louisiana Delta out of New Orleans.
"I have a real, real, real strong desire to make the Bassmaster Classic," Matt said, each "real" said so emphatically, they should get a double underline in print. "That drives me. But I haven't been able to make it. I just can't seem to get over that hill."
It was Parker who blocked Matt the year he came closest to winning a Classic seat in the 20-some seasons he's been competing in Federation events. It happened at the 2008 Federation Nation Championship on Milford Lake in Kansas. Parker and Matt brought in two fish each (the Milford event is legendary in Federation Nation annals as one of the all-time toughest tournaments). Parker's fish weighed more, so Matt ended as runner-up to Parker in the Eastern Division. Thus it was Parker who went to the Red River Classic in 2009.
So there's a history between them, but the rivalry it generated looks pretty friendly.
"I told him to go easy on me," Matt chuckled. Then, more seriously: "I know he's a good angler so the Championship is going to be a 'fun' event."
Parker, in turn, tipped his hat to Matt.
"He's just like me; he puts everything he has into the sport and I respect him to the utmost," Parker said.
The New Hampshire angler has a good job as a web developer for a marketing firm that believes in flex time and working remotely by computer, valuable perks for a competitive angler. Now 36, he claims close to 20 years in bass competitions, encompassing not only a long string of Federation tournaments, but also events in multiple circuits, including Bassmaster Opens in 2009. He does not want his 2009 Classic appearance to become a one-off.
"To qualify twice in three years would be amazing," he said.
Matt, a 46-year-old funeral director who is secure in his family business, said a Classic qualification has been a lifelong dream. But he began to work harder on realizing that dream after he attended the 1994 Classic in Greensboro, N.C., and witnessed Bryan Kerchal's win. Kerchal, who died five months later in a commuter airplane crash, is the only Federation Nation qualifier to win a Classic.
"Ever since I saw him, the Classic has been a goal of mine. Not necessarily to win it, but just to get there," Matt said.
To do it, this time he must pass Parker as well as the six others who qualified last week from the Eastern Division: Abe Kalechman of Stafford, Conn., the 2007 divisional winner who repeated in 2010; George Cooper of Buxton, Maine; Dave Rochette of Bracebridge, Ontario; Chris Molineaux of Hope Valley, R.I.; Jason Ross of Ashley Falls, Mass.; and Sean Alvarez of Rutland, Vt.
Championship qualifiers from the other five divisions can be found on the Federation Nation pages of Bassmaster.com.
The full field of 12 is now set for the 2010 Junior Bassmaster World Championship out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La.
Qualifying last week at the Eastern Divisional in Connecticut were the final two anglers: Alex Wetherell of Middletown, Conn., and Chris Catucci of Warwick, R.I.
Wetherell will compete against five other anglers in the 15-to-18 age group. Catucci will face the other five youth anglers who previously qualified in the 11-to-14 age slot.
The Junior Bassmaster World Championship will take place alongside the BASS Federation Nation Championship, also out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La. The kids will compete Oct. 29 on Cross Lake, just west of Shreveport, while the adults will compete Oct. 27-29 on the Red River.
Prizes in the Junior Bassmaster World Championship include a top award of $5,000 in scholarship money.
Here's the full 2010 field, by age group and including the division through which each angler qualified:
Logan Holt, Creedmoor, N.C. (Southern Division)
Tanner Cooper, Farmington, N.M (Western Division)
Matt Nobile, Paulina, La. (Central Division)
Harry Marsh, New Berlin, Wis. (Northern Division)
John Duarte, Baltimore, Md. (Mid-Atlantic Division; Duarte won the 2009 competition in the 11-14 age group)
Alex Wetherell, Middletown, Conn. (Eastern Division)
Ryan Edwards, Stuart, Fla. (Southern Division)
Ethan Peterson, Post Falls, Idaho (Western Division)
Nick Luna, Grain Valley, Kan. (Central Division)
Joshua Lee, Star Prairie, Wis. (Northern Division)
Henry Schomaker, Pineville, W.Va. (Mid-Atlantic Division)
Chris Catucci, Warwick, R.I. (Eastern Division)
The 2010 Toyota ShareLunker season in Texas will begin Oct. 1. That means Bassmaster Central Open anglers stand a chance to qualify a catch from Lake Texoma during, or in practice for, the Oct. 28-23 season finale.
Any angler who makes a legal catch in Texas of a 13-pound or heavier largemouth bass can submit the fish by calling 903-681-0550. The bass will be picked up within 12 hours by program personnel.
The bass are used to bump up the gene pool in breeding programs at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, Texas. Most program bass are later released. Their offspring are stocked in Texas waters.
Anglers who make ShareLunker contributions can receive a free replica of the fish, a certificate, ShareLunker clothing, and an invitation to an annual recognition banquet at the Athens facility. The Texas angler with the largest entry will receive a lifetime fishing license.
The ShareLunker program is made possible through a grant to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation from Gulf States Toyota. More information, including an impressive list of program accomplishments, is available at www.tpwd.state.tx.us/sharelunker.
"It's anybody's game." — Bobby Lane, Bassmaster Elite Series pro and the No. 2 man in points in the Bassmaster Southern Open, commenting on the Open's important Lake Seminole season finale that begins Oct. 7.