What does the CITGO B.A.S.S. Federation Championship really mean to a state federation program? Allow me to put it into the perspective of a 14-year Federation president in a state with approximately 1,800 members.
To get to the Championship, a member has to have fished one year in club events and another year in state events, just to make a 12-man divisional team. How tough is that? In Ohio, we have reduced the number of advancing anglers from 1,800 to 12, just six tenths of one percent (.6%). Not to mention the two years of dues that anglers paid, plus the obligatory meetings, youth and conservation projects and probably some fundraising work. That's quite a commitment just to get to a divisional tournament, with two more tough tests remaining to get to the "Big Show."
A divisional is the highlight of many anglers' careers. Most will say it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Although a few are fortunate enough to qualify more than once, they are the exception.
Once the top 12 anglers have bettered the other 1,788 members, they can look forward to the next step — the Federation Championship. To get there, an angler must finish at the top of their 12-man team in divisional competition.
The lucky angler who accomplishes that has now out-fished 1,799 seasoned anglers. If Vegas operated under the same odds they wouldn't stay in business for long. And yet the federation program has survived — and grown — with those odds increasing as membership grows. How tough is it? Although some states have had anglers make the Championship more than once, Ohio never has. And some have been trying for nearly 30 years.
Things get "easier" once an angler makes it to the Federation Championship. It's the only road to the CITGO BASS Masters Classic for the average federation angler. Now he has to out-fish only the other anglers in his division. In our state, that means bettering eight other state champions to get to the final event.What makes 1,800 anglers spend the money and put forth the effort to be federation members? The Federation Championship and CITGO BASS Masters Classic — for many members, those are the sole reasons they belong. While we have a nucleus of members who join to be a part of youth, conservation and other programs, they are in the minority; yet their dedication makes those areas the strongest of any fishing organization in existence today.It is amazing how little "glue" it takes to hold the 50,000 nationwide federation members together: the dream of making a Federation Championship and that final shot at the CITGO BASS Masters Classic. Only five make the final show, yet the opportunities provided bring the other 49,995 back year after year.
If you ever have an opportunity to go to a Federation Championship, don't pass it up. These anglers are very close to the pros in ability and execution. The only things most lack are time, money and sponsorship to compete at the pro level, and the Federation Championship can provide the latter two.Yes, the odds are great, but a young man named Bryan Kerchal proved that the dream can come true, and some others have come very close. As 52 amateur anglers await their shot at this year's Federation Championship, another 49,949 are somewhere in the process of making their way towards that elusive dream.