Amateur Anglers From Around The World Compete In Florida For Six Bassmaster Classic Berths

55 angler compete in the Bassmaster Federation Nation Championship presented by Yamaha Outboards and Skeeter Boats, on the Harris Chain of Lakes out of Tavares, Fla.

When it comes to bass fishing, Ron Cherkas of Grimes, Iowa, has two lifetime ambitions: to qualify for a Bassmaster Classic and the Bassmaster Elite Series.

 His chance will come Oct. 28-30, when he and 54 other anglers compete in the Bassmaster Federation Nation Championship presented by Yamaha Outboards and Skeeter Boats, on the Harris Chain of Lakes out of Tavares, Fla.

 "I've been trying to do this for a long time," said Cherkas, 61, a BASS Federation Nation member since 1979 and owner of a digital printing firm that he says in 1999 was the first to wrap a bass boat. "I want to win this championship, and I would just love to make the Elites."

 Like most other qualifiers, Cherkas made it to the 2009 championship by advancing through layers of local, state and regional Federation Nation tournaments. He emerged as the top angler from Iowa, one of 47 states represented. Six other anglers on the roster are international entrants; they're from Canada, Mexico, Japan, Italy, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Rounding out the field of 55 are defending champion Bryan Schmidt of Olney, Texas; and John Clark of Bossier City, La., the Paralyzed Veterans of America 2009 Open Angler of the Year. A full list can be found below.

 Cherkas will have to outfish them all to claim the winner's prize, an invitation to the 2010 Bassmaster Elite Series and a Skeeter/Yamaha boat rig valued at $63,250. The winner also will score a Classic berth by way of a victory in their respective division. In each of six divisions, the top angler will earn a berth in the 2010 Classic, set for Feb. 19-21 on Lay Lake out of Birmingham, Ala.

 So to get to the Classic, Cherkas will have to boat more pounds of bass through three days than any of the other eight anglers in the Northern Division.

 As Cherkas is from Iowa, Florida fisheries aren't his strong suit, but he has plenty of experience figuring out different lakes and rivers through his years of competing on the Bassmaster Open trail. He said he had never seen the Harris Chain until he scouted it just before the official off-limits period went into effect Sept. 25.

 Based on what he saw during his 10 days on the nine-lake chain, he estimated 44 pounds would take the title.

 "I think the main patterns are going to be fishing drops, shellfish beds and brushpiles," he said. "This could be done on Griffin, and probably the Harris lakes, with either a jig or a Carolina rig."

 Bryan Schmidt, the defending champion, had an automatic entry into the 2009 championship. He's hoping it will lead to a second Classic experience. It would be hard to top his first, a sixth-place finish at the 2009 Classic on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La.

 "I would love to make it two in a row," said Schmidt, 39. "It was a dream come true that I even qualified for the first one. And to make a second one would be unreal."

 He said he squeezed in a week of scouting on Harris this past summer, between his job in Texas working for a maker of crop dusters and his first year competing in the Bassmaster Opens.

 "Harris fishes to some of my strengths," Schmidt said. "I believe I'll be in the areas where the fish are, and if I can execute well, I will put them in the boat.

"I think there will be a couple of patterns that can produce bigger fish, but those same patterns won't produce limits. We'll see multiple techniques — flipping, cranking, throwing spinnerbaits. Bigger fish will come off topwaters or flipping."

 For Mike Wolfenden, of Warwick, R.I., the Federation Nation Championship in Tavares will be his fourth. He won the 2009 Eastern Divisional as well as state honors. A 39-year-old UPS employee, Wolfenden said he has won 87 tournaments since he began competing at age 18, but he's still looking for a pass to the Classic.

This could be his year, as he said he has competed several times on Florida fisheries, so his comfort level is high.

 I went down there about three weeks ago and practiced for a week," he said. "I tried to get an overview so that during official practice I'll be able to narrow down where I should spend most of my time."

 The 55 championship competitors will have three days of practice before the tournament begins Wednesday, Oct. 28. The full field will compete for three days.

 Launches, at 7:30 a.m. ET daily, and weigh-ins, at 3:45 p.m., will be at Wooten Park, 200 S. Rockingham Ave., Tavares, Fla. Fans can watch live, streaming video of all three days of weigh-ins at, along with real-time leaderboards. Daily standings, stories and photo galleries also will be available at

 Also during the same week, the Junior Bassmaster World Championship and will take place on nearby Lake Yale. Kids in two age divisions (11-14, 15-18) will weigh their bass at 3:45 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30, on the Federation Nation Championship stage in Tavares.

 Also to be played out will be the Bassmaster CastingKids National Championship. Kids in two age groups (7-10, 11-14) will cast, pitch and flip to targets. The CastingKids finals will begin at Noon Friday, Oct. 30, at the Lake Sumter Community College gymnasium in Leesburg, Fla.


Youth prizes will include trophies and scholarships.


All BASS events are free and open to the public.


2009 BASS Federation Nation Championship presented by Yamaha Outboards and Skeeter Boats


*2009 Divisional winner






Bryan Schmidt, Olney, Texas




John Clark, Bossier City, La.






ALABAMA: Kenneth Pannell, Springville, Ala.


FLORIDA: David Boyd, Quincy, Fla.


GEORGIA: Chris Neely, Chattahoochee, Fla.


KENTUCKY: Brandon Card, Lexington, Ky.


NORTH CAROLINA: Chuck Murray, Louisburg, N.C.*


SOUTH CAROLINA: Brent Long, Cornelius, N.C.


SOUTH AFRICA: Justy Varkevisser, Johannesburg


TENNESSEE: Ben Parker, Union City, Tenn.






ARIZONA: Jeff Guerrette, Glendale, Ariz.


CALIFORNIA: Nick Wood, Yreka, Calif.


COLORADO: Matt Massey, Lakewood, Colo.


IDAHO: Owen Lounsbury, St. Maries, Idaho


JAPAN: Mamoru Suzuki, Tokyo


MONTANA: Leroy Starling, Whitefish, Mont.


NEW MEXICO: Chuck Rizuto, Navajo Dam, N.M.


NEVADA: Ben Grande, Las Vegas


OREGON: Byron Chaves, Salem, Ore.*


UTAH: Paul Reutlinger, West Jordan, Utah


WASHINGTON: Don Hogue, Pasco, Wash.


WYOMING: Samuel Russell, Salt Lake City






ARKANSAS: Jared Taliaferro, Rogers, Ark.


KANSAS: Mark Warner, Overland Park, Kan.


LOUISIANA: Samuel Anthony, Independence, La.


MEXICO: Cesar Madrigal, San Luis Potosi


MISSISSIPPI: Jay Ladner, Kiln, Miss.


MISSOURI: Russell Matt, St. Joseph, Mo.


NEBRASKA: Richard Risewick, Norton, Kan.*


OKLAHOMA: John Soukup, Agra, Okla.


TEXAS: Tom Jessop, Dalhart, Texas






DELAWARE: Don Denault, Delmar, Md.


MARYLAND: Brett Quader, Pasadena, Md.


NEW JERSEY: Scott Weiland, Saddle Brook, N.J.


PENNSYLVANIA: Tim Dolon, Cherryville, Pa.


VIRGINIA: Jeff Freeman, Max Meadows, Va.*


WEST VIRGINIA: Rick Hamer, Charleston, W.Va.


ZIMBABWE: Gerry Jooste, Harare






CONNECTICUT: Al Gambardella, North Haven, Conn.


MAINE: Mark Desjardin, Vassalboro, Maine


MASSACHUSETTS: Randy Phillips, Oxford, Mass.


NEW HAMPSHIRE: Tyler Hanatow, Alstead, N.H.


NEW YORK: Joe Matt, Syracuse, N.Y.


ONTARIO, CANADA: Dave Johnson, Keswick


RHODE ISLAND: Mike Wolfenden, Warwick, R.I.*


VERMONT: Skip Sjobeck, Randolph, Vt.






ILLINOIS: Gerald Sobkowiak, Granville, Ill.


INDIANA: Brian Hensley, Edwardsburg, Mich.


IOWA: Ron Cherkas, Grimes, Iowa


ITALY: Jacopo Gallelli, Firenze


MICHIGAN: Brandon Rose, Saginaw, Mich.


MINNESOTA: Randy Wieczorek, Buffalo City, Wis.


OHIO: Jody Adkins, North Canton, Ohio


SOUTH DAKOTA: Shane Cowen, Pierre, S.D.


WISCONSIN: Wes Haney, Baldwin, Wis.*




ALABAMA: Kenneth Pannell, Springville


ARIZONA: Jeff Guerrette, Glendale


ARKANSAS: Jared Taliaferro, Rogers


CALIFORNIA: Nick Wood, Yreka


COLORADO: Matt Massey, Lakewood


CONNECTICUT: Al Gambardella


FLORIDA: David Boyd, Quincy


FLORIDA: Chris Neely, Chattahoochee (representing Georgia)


IDAHO: Owen Lounsbury, St. Maries


ILLINOIS: Gerald Sobkowiak, Granville


IOWA: Ron Cherkas, Grimes


KANSAS: Mark Warner, Overland Park


KANSAS: Richard Risewick, Norton* (representing Nebraska)


KENTUCKY: Brandon Card, Lexington


LOUISIANA: Samuel Anthony, Independence


LOUISIANA: John Clark, Bossier City (representing PVA)


MAINE: Mark Desjardin, Vassalboro


MARYLAND: Brett Quader, Pasadena


MARYLAND: Don Denault, Delmar (representing Delaware)


MASSACHUSETTS: Randy Phillips, Oxford


MICHIGAN: Brandon Rose, Saginaw


MICHIGAN: Brian Hensley, Edwardsburg (representing Indiana)


WISCONSIN: Randy Wieczorek, Buffalo City (representing Minnesota)


MISSISSIPPI: Jay Ladner, Kiln


MISSOURI: Russell Matt, St. Joseph


MONTANA: Leroy Starling, Whitefish


NEVADA: Ben Grande, Las Vegas


NEW HAMPSHIRE: Tyler Hanatow, Alstead


NEW JERSEY: Scott Weiland, Saddle Brook


NEW MEXICO: Chuck Rizuto, Navajo Dam


NEW YORK: Joe Matt, Syracuse


NORTH CAROLINA: Chuck Murray, Louisburg*


NORTH CAROLINA: Brent Long, Cornelius (representing South Carolina)


OHIO: Jody Adkins, North Canton


OKLAHOMA: John Soukup, Agra


OREGON: Byron Chaves, Salem*


PENNSYLVANIA: Tim Dolon, Cherryville


RHODE ISLAND: Mike Wolfenden, Warwick*


SOUTH DAKOTA: Shane Cowen, Pierre


TENNESSEE: Ben Parker, Union City


TEXAS: Tom Jessop, Dalhart, Texas


TEXAS: Schmidt, Bryan Olney, Texas (defending champion)


UTAH: Paul Reutlinger, West Jordan


UTAH: Samuel Russell, Salt Lake City (representing Wyoming)


VERMONT: Skip Sjobeck, Randolph


VIRGINIA: Jeff Freeman, Max Meadows*


WASHINGTON: Don Hogue, Pasco


WEST VIRGINIA: Rick Hamer, Charleston


WISCONSIN: Wes Haney, Baldwin*




MEXICO: Cesar Madrigal, San Luis Potosi


ITALY: Jacopo Gallelli, Firenze


JAPAN: Mamoru Suzuki, Tokyo


ONTARIO, CANADA: Dave Johnson, Keswick


SOUTH AFRICA: Justy Varkevisser, Johannesburg


ZIMBABWE: Gerry Jooste, Harare