Neels Beneke risked more than anyone else in this tournament in pursuit of his dream. Beneke, of South Africa, one of its top bass tournament anglers, wants to win this tournament so he can become the first angler from Africa to fish the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by HUK.
Beneke came to the U.S. in late February with the intention of competing in the Basspro.com Bassmaster Central Open at Lake Lewisville, which was postponed until this week. He would then return home until the Arkansas River event in June. Instead, Beneke sheltered in place in this country, or faced being unable to get back into the U.S. So he sheltered in place until restrictions were lifted.
Beneke came here with nothing but his fishing tackle. No boat. No vehicle. Just a dream separated by 10,000 miles. He camped for weeks at Opens tournament fisheries, only to have the events postponed and the dream put on hold again. Along the way, he purchased a used truck and boat, and stayed with friends during the springtime lockdown and between tournaments. As you see in this picture, he camps in a tent at all the tournament sites.
"Flying back and forth from South Africa left me feeling like I wouldn't be able to finish the season with all the travel restrictions," he said. "But here I am, it all worked out and I owe it all to my faith in God and my sponsors."
Those are Abu Garcia SA, Varkenelli Customs, Outdoors365, 30South Eyewear and Big Bite Baits USA.