John Duarte Jr. has a big week ahead of him. The 14-year-old aspiring pro bass fisherman has the opportunity to add two big titles to his pro angler résumé, both in the same day.
This Friday, Duarte is the only dual qualifier in the two competitions for young anglers, the 2009 Junior Bassmaster World Championship (JWC) and the 2009 Bassmaster CastingKids National Championship.
"I'd like to do well in both of them," says Duarte. "I've been practicing my flip, pitch and cast for the CastingKids competition, and I've been doing a lot of research on the computer for fishing on Lake Yale for the JWC."
John Duarte Sr., Duarte's father, is confident in his son's abilities. "He's definitely a good fisherman," says Duarte Sr. "He's taught me a lot. We've even fished as a team in some tournaments."
Duarte Jr.'s skills will be put to the test this week in the JWC, where he'll be representing the Mid-Atlantic Division. He will be fishing in the younger group, ages 11 to 14, against Ralston Lusby, Central; Tanner Plumlee, Southern; Lowell Turner, Eastern; Danny Sprague, Northern; and Nick Jakobi, Western.
Each angler will be paired with the other competitor from his division in the other age group. That means Duarte will be fishing with Mid-Atlantic representative Frank Appaluccio from the older age group, ages 15 to 18. Appaluccio's competitors are Craig Conger, Central; Ross Burns, Southern; Jake Sasnowski, Eastern; Cody Harris, Northern; and Jake Cook, Western.
Each pair of anglers will go out on Lake Yale for practice Thursday with their boat captain, who will be either a volunteer from the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation or from BASS staff. The boat captain can mentor and teach the children on practice day; on competition day, Friday, they serve only as boat drivers and safety observers and cannot assist the anglers.
"We want them to learn from their boat captains and have a good time," says Stacy Twiggs, senior manager, B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Youth. "We want them to become even better anglers and be able to move into the adult ranks when it's time."
These young competitors are already very talented, Twiggs says. "They're so much better than when this program first began a few years ago. You can see it in their efficiency, the techniques they use, the weights they bring in, and abilities and skill levels they have.
"It's amazing what they've learned in a few short years," adds Twiggs. "I'm blown away that when the JWC started in 2004, we had fewer than 20 states participate, and now we have entries from every state and some international competitors."
This Friday, the young anglers will launch at 7:30 a.m. at Lake Yale East in Eustis, Fla. They have until 2:30 p.m. to fish, and the weigh-in will begin by 4 p.m. Check Bassmaster.com Friday evening for winners.