Get in the zone

I don’t give advice often, because it is typically bad. However, I am confident in this little nugget: If you are an angler between the ages of 13 and 19, register to fish the Big Bass Zone Junior Championship (BBZJC). If you are outside this age range, pass along the advice to someone that fits the bill. Let me explain why.

First, the event removes just about every hurdle that exists in traditional bass fishing competitions. For one, it is an online derby. Once a fish is caught, two photos need to be taken showing the length and girth and then submitted through the event’s website ( Once registered, a competitor can fish wherever they’d like (river, pond, lake, etc.), however, they want (from the bank, from a kayak, from a boat), whenever they want (now through Aug.1). The entry fee is $25 for one state, $50 if a competitor wants to fish multiple states. And the goal is simple: catch a big bass. The angler who catches the biggest bass in each state will represent that state in the championship event to be held on Lake Pend Oreille in Idaho. At this event, more than $300,000 in prizes will be awarded, including a fully rigged Bass Cat boat. No, that number is not a typo.

Actually, before a cast is ever made at the one-day championship, anglers will receive over $1,000 in gear. Beyond the boat, prizes include scholarship money to Bethel University, trips to the Amazon and Lake El Salto by Anglers Inn International, electronics, trolling motors and much more. To get an idea of how this event will go down, let me explain some of the unique aspects of the 2019 edition.

All 48 anglers were paired with a boat captain provided by the BBZJC. The morning began with breakfast provided by The Willows Club by Anglers Inn, who also provided a sack lunch for each competitor. After blastoff, each angler spent half a day on the trolling motor. One fish was kept for weigh-in. While the competitors battled it out on Lake Pend Oreille, boat rides were provided for the parents who wanted to get on the water to watch their student angler compete. Bill Lindner had a film crew following the action on the water to create a one-hour show. At the weigh-in, the leading angler sat in the Bass Cat hot seat, hoping not to get knocked off. The weigh-in was live­streamed on Bassmaster’s Facebook page (more than 40,000 people tuned in). The last angler sitting was awarded the keys to the new boat, and was then swept away in a limo to the awards dinner. The other competitors piled into a stretch limo heading to the same destination. At this banquet, all anglers lined up in the order in which they placed and chose the prize they wanted. And a surprise guest, Elite Series angler Brandon Palaniuk, showed up and gave an inspirational speech. Simply put, it was an extraordinary experience for all involved. And all it took was $25 and a big fish. 

This year, after an angler submits a bass, he or she can go to and check the leaderboard, which is updated in real-time. One thing to remember is that a fish caught in a B.A.S.S. Nation High School event, for example, can also be submitted to the BBZJC. Actually, any fish legally caught between now and Aug. 1, which is when the event ends, can be a contender. So, register and fish on your own terms. I’d love to tell you where to go and what lure to use, but my advice in that department is not likely to punch your ticket to Pend Oreille.