A new format for the B.A.S.S. Nation unveiled a new path to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic on Sunday.
This year, the nonboater winner after two days of the 2016 Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Championship presented by Magellan Outdoors got more than a boat. He advanced to a final-day showdown against the top 10 boaters on Lake Conroe.
Ryan Lavigne of Gonzales, La., was the guy who blazed that trail. He found a productive hump that produced 22 pounds, 12 ounces on Friday and earned him the nonboater title. After a day postponed by wind, Lavigne humped it again for 24 pounds and the overall crown. His total prize package for taking both trophies could top $131,820.
“That’s uh. … that’s definitely a life-changer right there,” he said. “I still don’t know what to say. All I can do is thank God.”
Probably for guiding him to that special spot that helped him lap the field by more than 16 pounds with his 58-3 total.
“Honestly, Monday (in practice) I idled over this deal and turned around, made a cast and caught one about 16 inches,” he said. “Never thought it was what it was, but Friday it just blew me away. Today, man, if you all could see some of that GoPro footage, it was pretty sweet.”
Sweet, indeed. A crowd of his family and friends drove the five hours to be there, and he held daughter Lilly on stage in one arm and his best fish in the other as he awaited his second major trophy of the week.
Other stuff Lavigne won includes entry fees to any Open circuit, the use of a Toyota truck and Phoenix boat all next year for any tournaments. And, last but not least, he has a $16,000 down payment waiting for him if he decides to accept the Elite Series invitation that goes to the winner.
NOT LACKING IN CONFIDENCE?
Nation tournament director Jon Stewart relayed a story on stage showing that he believed Lavigne was pretty confident of his chances in the two-day nonboater event.
“I think you knew you had a shot,” Stewart said. “You called me or texted me a couple weeks ago, ‘If I win that nonboater side, can I use my boat the final day?’”
Lavigne quickly corrected him, showing he wasn’t that cocky.
“I think the exact wording was, ‘Can the nonboater winner use their boat?” he said, wanting to bring his to Texas just in case. “I knew a nonboater had to go, and if it was me, I wanted my own equipment here.”
After that, Stewart asked Lavigne probably the most important question to his entourage: “Is there going to be a party tonight?”
“I’m pretty sure,” Lavigne said to loud cheering, hoots and hollers.