RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. — Jeff Lugar of McGaheysville, Va., only wanted for his sons to be able to say that their dad made it to the Bassmaster Classic.
And now, after Lugar’s win at the 2013 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship on Arkansas’ Lake Dardanelle, they can.
“I wanted to leave them a legacy and make them proud,” said Lugar, father to Travis, 18, and Tyler, 13. “They both love to hunt and fish, and when we go fishing together, they only want to outfish their dad.
“At this point, it doesn’t even matter to me if I catch a fish in the Bassmaster Classic,” he continued. “Just the fact that I made it means everything.”
Lugar will be joining other B.A.S.S. Nation anglers at the Classic. Five other men qualified on Saturday after winning their divisions. Doug Thompson of Arkansas for the Central Division; Paul Mueller, Connecticut, Eastern; Mark Dove, Northern; Coby Carden, Southern; and Tim Johnston, Western.
The six anglers will compete against the best anglers in the sport of bass fishing in February on Lake Guntersville in Alabama.
“I’m so thankful to the Virginia B.A.S.S. Nation for getting me here,” said Lugar, a member of the Rockingham Bass Anglers in Virginia. “The Virginia chapter helped offset the cost of this trip, and the state president and secretary, Mike and Pam Bryant, came with me to Arkansas and have given me anything I could possibly need. They’ve been great.”
For his win, Lugar takes home the coveted Bryan V. Kerchal Memorial Trophy and a Skeeter/Yamaha boat package worth $45,000. He also has earned an invitation to fish the 2014 Bassmaster Elite Series.
“I’m extremely excited,” said Lugar. “I’m still in shock and disbelief.”
Lugar won the tournament by fishing coontail grass in the lower end of the lake. “I had two main areas, Dardanelle Bay and Delaware Bay,” said Lugar.
He picked apart the grass with a chartreuse/white spinnerbait, a blue shad ChatterBait and a chrome blue Rat-L-Trap. Lugar relied on G.Loomis IMX rods, a Lew’s Tournament Pro reel and Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon. He switched to Berkley Trilene Big Game line for the spinnerbait.
“I found baitfish holding around the coontail in these areas 2 to 4 feet deep,” Lugar explained. “My areas were close to the launch — one was right across from it — so I could maximize my fishing time.”
Lugar came to Lake Dardanelle in September for two days to pre-fish and found coontail. “Since then, it’s changed a little,” he said. “Some is gone, and some is new. But coming on that trip taught me to navigate this lake, so it was worth it.”
Behind him in second place overall was Coby Carden of Shelby, Ala., who charged from 13th place where he began Day Three. Carden surprised the crowd with an enormous 7-pound, 10-ounce bass, far bigger than the others in the competition. His big fish won him Carhartt Big Bass honors worth $500. Thanks largely to that bass, Carden brought in the biggest sack of the tournament, 20 pounds, 14 ounces.
Carden caught the bass with a Davis swim jig with a Missile Baits Swim Trailer in summer craw color. He caught it shallow in an area with willow grass and lily pads.
Carden is among the anglers headed to the Bassmaster Classic. “I’ve wanted to go since I knew what the Classic was, back when I was a kid,” said Carden.
Mark Dove will be making back-to-back appearances at the Classic. He went last year as the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship overall winner, and he’s going back in 2014 as the Northern Division champ. He also qualified once before, in 1997.
Keep up with the six anglers’ Classic journey at Bassmaster.com/Nation up to the 2014 Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 21-23.