LAKEPORT, Calif. — Chase Heaton, 19, has been battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma for a year and a half, but he put all those troubles aside Friday on Clear Lake as he went on to win the 2013 B.A.S.S. Nation Junior Bassmaster Western Divisional in the older division.
Ryan Wood, of Broomfield, Colo., won the younger division of the same competition.
“I’ve got to find the right words for it,” said an emotional Heaton after his win. “It’s a dream come true. It’s a way to help repay the people who have believed in me for so long. There’s nothing more I can ask for.”
Heaton bested the 15- to 18-year-old age group with a weight of 15 pounds, 0 ounces, in the one-day competition. He and his teammate, Logan Meredith of Washington, fished an island on the south end of Clear Lake. He was drop shotting the rocks using a 4-inch sand colored Sniper Lures Sniper Snub, which he describes as a white worm with riblets. His setup included a 1-foot leader with a Gamakatsu No. 1 G-Lock Hook. He fished a 6-6 medium-heavy Lamiglas Certified Pro 663 rod with a Shimano Symmetry 2500 reel and 10-pound-test Seaguar InvizX line.
Heaton also caught a 3-pounder by flipping a Bass Kickin’ Baits Punisher in black/blue with a 7-3 medium-heavy Abu Garcia Veritas rod, Abu Garcia Revo SX reel and 20-pound-test Seaguar InvizX.
“Everything is looking up for me right now,” said Heaton, regarding his health. “And this win is definitely a great confidence booster.”
Ryan Wood, 15, and his teammate, Seth Willard, went farther south than anyone else in the divisional to get the fish that earned him his trophy. “It took us an hour and a half to get there,” said Wood.
The spot he was fishing, Cache Creek, is a creek so small — maybe 20 feet wide — that it was difficult to even turn the boat around. The bottom was rocky, and spawning beds were all over the place. Wood caught 15 pounds, 9 ounces in that spot, including one bass that weighed 8-2.
Wood caught the lunker using a 5 3/8-inch wacky-rigged Senko-style bait in watermelon red flake. He fished it on a 7-1 medium fast St. Croix Legend Tournament Bass rod and an Abu Garcia Revo STX reel, with 20-pound-test Seaguar Kanzen line and 17-pound-test Berkley Vanish as a leader.
Wood’s other two fish came off a tube jig and a drop shot.
“This win means everything to me,” said Wood, who’s been competing in tournaments since he was 10.
He and Heaton will meet again at the 2013 Bassmaster Junior World Championship, Oct. 26, near Russellville, Ark., held in conjunction with the 2013 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship.
The next anglers to qualify for the Junior World Championship will come from the 2013 Junior Bassmaster Southern Divisional, April 26, on Douglas Lake in Dandridge, Tenn. Stay tuned to Bassmaster.com for coverage of the event.