Fed descends on Wheeler for Championship

DECATUR, Ala. — This week, from Oct. 25-27, anglers from all over the world will gather in Decatur at 67,000-acre Wheeler Lake to compete in the 2012 Cabela’s Bassmaster Federation Nation Championship.

“We are very excited to be back in our Alabama birthplace for this historic 25th anniversary Cabela’s Bassmaster Federation Nation Championship,” said Don Corkran, director of the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation. “This will be the first time the event has been held on Wheeler Lake in Decatur, and I expect the catches to be significant.”

Jamie Horton, who won the 2011 Cabela’s Bassmaster Federation Nation Championship (BFNC), will be defending his title, hoping for a shot at the 2013 Bassmaster Classic. Horton comes to this championship with five prior BFNCs under his belt — and now with an entire Bassmaster Elite Series season behind him.

“I’m definitely looking forward to getting back with the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation guys,” said Horton. “That’s where I came from.”

Horton will be competing against 55 other anglers, who are representing 47 states, plus Japan, South Africa, Italy, Canada, Mexico, Spain and Zimbabwe. In addition, Tony Choe will represent the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA). The PVA sends its Angler of the Year to the BFNC each year, and this is the second year in a row Choe has competed.

Chris Molineaux, a carpenter representing his home state of Rhode Island, is among the anglers competing in the championship. He traveled south earlier this month so he would have time to scout Wheeler Lake before the contenders’ cut-off date of Oct. 15.

“It’s tough right now,” said Molineaux, fishing his second championship. “There are some good fish to be had, but they’re few and far between.”

The Rhode Islander is used to fishing highly pressured, really small lakes. “There’s not a lot of water back home that’s as big as Wheeler,” he said, noting that many of his usual fisheries are about 10 acres. Molineaux fished Wheeler for seven consecutive days and has formulated a plan. “Now, I’ve just got to go out there next week and do my best.”

The overall winner of the championship will take home a trophy, an invitation to compete in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic, eligibility for the 2013 Bassmaster Elite Series and a $53,465 prize package that includes a Skeeter ZX200 boat with a Yamaha 200 SHO motor, equipped with Humminbird electronics and a Minn Kota trolling motor.

Joining the champ at the Classic will be the top contender from each of the other five divisions. There are six divisions total: Western, Central, Southern, Northern, Eastern and Mid-Atlantic. You can see who’s competing on this downloadable score card and in this photo gallery.

Competition begins Thursday, Oct. 25, and concludes Saturday, Oct. 27. Launches will take place daily at 6:45 a.m. CT at Ingalls Harbor, 701 Market St. N.W., Decatur, AL 35601, on Wheeler Lake. Weigh-ins will be held at Ingalls Harbor daily beginning at 3 p.m. CT, and they will be streamed live on Bassmaster.com.

Meanwhile, young anglers will compete on nearby Wilson Lake in the 2012 Bassmaster Junior World Championship (JWC). Six anglers in each of two age divisions (11 to 14 and 15 to 18) will fish for the opportunity to win in their age group. Contenders are awarded scholarship money for college.

JWC competition is on Saturday, Oct. 27. The launch will take place at 6:45 a.m. CT at Safe Harbor at the Wilson Lake’s Tailwater Recreation Area. JWC contenders will weigh in with their adult counterparts at Ingalls Harbor. You can see who’s competing on this downloadable score card and in this photo gallery.