ATHENS, Ala. — One angler will win the chance of a lifetime, an opportunity to compete in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic, by winning the 2012 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Weekend Series National Championship tournament.
Operated by American Bass Anglers, the 2012 national championship event will be held Nov. 7-10 on Lake Sam Rayburn. The tournament will run out of Umphrey Pavilion Marina north of Jasper, Texas. The event features the best weekend anglers from about 25 states across the country.
“Everything is shaping up for an excellent national championship tournament,” said Porter Trimble, the tournament director. “The anglers qualify through divisional events in their states and one two-day divisional championship. The top 40 points leaders from each BWS division compete in one of four regional championship events. Then, the top 50 boaters and 50 co-anglers from each of the four regional events may compete in the BWS national championship for a chance to win a portion of about $250,000.”
Anglers may register at Umphrey Pavilion on Nov. 4 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and must attend a meeting at 4 p.m. on Nov. 6 at Lions Rodeo Arena, located at 1006 Fletcher Street in Jasper. The anglers may practice on Lake Sam Rayburn on Nov. 4-6. Competitors may begin fishing at 6:45 a.m. or safe light each tournament day. All the anglers fish on the first three days of competition. On the final day, only the Top 25 boaters and co-anglers compete. The free public weigh-in begins at 3 p.m. each tournament day.
“Our sponsors will hold events in conjunction with the weigh-ins,” Trimble said. “The local community hosts will schedule tours and other activities for families. We invite all the fans in the Jasper area to come out and watch the weigh-in for one of the most prestigious tournaments in the country.”
Anglers fishing the Boater Division may weigh in up to five bass each day, while co-anglers may weigh in up to three bass each day. Each bass must measure at least 14 inches long. The top boater will receive $100,000 and could win up to $105,000 with bonuses from Triton Boats, Mercury Marine and MotorGuide. The champion co-angler will take home $50,000 and could grab up to $52,500 including sponsor bonus money.
In addition, the winning boater will earn a chance to compete in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic, slated for Feb. 22-24 on Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees near Grove, Okla. Allan Glasgow, winner of the 2011 BWS national championship held on the Santee-Cooper lakes near Summerton, S.C., competed in the 2012 Bassmaster Classic.
“This will be a life-changing event for one person,” Trimble said. “Past national champions who have competed in the Bassmaster Classic always say that competing in that tournament was the event of a lifetime.”
Locally called “Big Sam,” Lake Sam Rayburn spreads across 114,500 acres of the eastern Texas piney woods. Situated on the Angelina River and surrounded by national forests, the largest lake entirely within Texas runs approximately 79 miles and offers anglers more than 750 miles of shoreline. It drops to more than 80 feet deep in places.
Impounded in 1965, the lake can produce monster largemouth. The lake produces abundant bass in the 4- to 8-pound range with many double-digit fish. In May 1997, Tommy Shelton set the lake record with a 16.80-pound largemouth. It can also produce spotted bass exceeding 5 pounds.
“The big bass will probably be in the 8- to 9-pound range,” predicted Scott Dean of Terrell, Texas, who fishes with the BWS East Texas Division 11. “Anglers will need to catch at least 15 to 18 pounds a day to stay competitive.”
During an October 2012 FLW event, Phil Marks of Dallas won the four-day tournament with 82 pounds. On the final day of competition, he brought in five bass weighing 32 pounds, 12 ounces for a 6.55-pound average. He needed two weigh-in bags to bring his fish to the scales. On the final day, Marks caught his bass on a prototype 10XD Strike King deep running crankbait.
Marks fished deep structure. Numerous creek channels flow through the system, creating humps and drops. Many anglers also fish abundant grassbeds. Hydrilla, coontail and pondweed create excellent bass habitat. Anglers may also find some standing timber in coves. In addition, timber, brush and fallen trees create shoreline bass cover.
A couple years ago, the area suffered from a severe drought, which dropped the lake level nearly 10 feet below normal. During the extended drought, many exposed shorelines grew up with terrestrial vegetation. When rains returned in spring 2012, the water level rose, inundating many acres of new bass cover.
“Rayburn is a flat lake,” Dean advised. “When the water came up, the fish had so much cover they could go anywhere. In recent tournaments, anglers could catch fish in 30 feet of water or one foot of water. Anglers are going to be able to catch some fish doing whatever technique they like to do best.”
Many anglers probably plan to drag Carolina rigs around creek channels or humps. Others may fish football jigs over humps or look to the grassbeds ripe for flipping soft plastics. Anglers might also spot schooling fish where major creek channels hit the main lake.
“The fish are starting to move into the shallows, but anglers will still catch big ones out in deeper waters,” Dean recommended. “It will probably be won in the 10- to 12-foot range. In the shallows, anglers will catch plenty bass on crankbaits, topwaters and rattle baits. In deeper waters, I recommend throwing football jigs or Carolina rigs.”
The Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Weekend Series provides weekend anglers a professionally operated competitive tour with a path to the world championship of bass fishing — the Bassmaster Classic. American Bass Anglers’ commitment is to provide low cost, close to home tournaments for the weekend angler and at the same time offer each competitor an upward path for individual angler progression. For more information about American Bass Anglers and the American Fishing Tour, The Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Weekend Series or the American Couples Series, visit www.americanbassanglers.com.