HUNTINGDON, Tenn. — The Bassmaster Junior National Championship is a team bass tournament, and all but one of the 51 teams are made up of two anglers between the ages of 7 and 13.
The one solo angler, Rein Golubjatnikov proved Tuesday that one is more than enough when he brought in a five-bass limit weighing 15 pounds, 13 ounces. The 13-year-old New Yorker seized the first-round lead in the two-day junior championship on Carroll County 1,000 Acre Recreational Lake in northwest Tennessee. The tournament has attracted anglers from 28 states and Canada — all of whom advanced through the B.A.S.S. Nation ranks to the championship.
None were as impressive as Golubjatnikov, whose bag was anchored by an 8-2 lunker that easily was the heaviest bass of the day. Golubjatnikov said he fought the big bass for nearly two minutes as it worked its way underneath his boat before he could net the bass. It was a considerable battle as the eighth grader tips the scales himself at only 85 pounds.
To put the “boy vs. bass” struggle into perspective, the equivalent would be the average adult man battling a 20-pound bass. He’s used to catching big bass, as he advanced to nationals on the strength of a 22-4 bag on New York’s Cayuga Lake. The 8-2 heavyweight he caught Tuesday, however, was a personal best.
“They don’t have bass like that in New York,” Golubjatnikov told the large crowd gathered in downtown Huntingdon for today’s weigh-in.
They do in Carroll County’s 1,000 Acre Recreational Lake though, and Golubjatnikov (whose boat captain/coach is his dad, Ken) said he fished a variety of lures in shallow and deep water on Tuesday. Rein targeted baitfish for most of the day, and he had a 4-pounder to go with his 8-plus kicker on Day 1.
Considering the results, he said he’ll stick with the strategy on the final day of the championship on Wednesday.
“I was really excited,” he said. “It was really cool to catch a fish that big. It was like a once in a lifetime thing.”
Rein is fishing alone this week as school is just letting out this week in Pittsford, N.Y., where he lives. He was able to take his final exams early, but he knew he likely would fish alone if he made the nationals (which he did for the third consecutive year as New York’s youth champion). He finished seventh in last year’s junior championship when he paired with Garrett Lawton to catch a two-day total of 8-1.
One day into the 2017 tournament and he’s nearly doubled that output — by himself.
Golubjatnikov has competition hot on his heels, however. The Louisiana duo of Jordan Sylvester and Jacob Tullier caught a limit that weighed 15-1. Sylvester boated a 5-7 bass to anchor the team’s bag and put them only 12 ounces behind the leader. It was the third-heaviest bass caught on Tuesday.
“I think tomorrow’s going to be fun,” Sylvester said. “We’re going to go out and try to do the same thing we did today.”
Golubjatnikov and the Louisiana pair were the teams to weigh double-digit bags on Tuesday. The tandems of Bradlee Parish and Tyler Guin of Mississippi and Colby Carrier and Abe Lafrance of Maine both weighed 9-15 totals, but the Mississippi boys are in third place officially because they boated five bass on Tuesday. Carrier and Lafrance caught four keepers.
Florida’s Fisher Cusic and SammyJay Acree are in fifth place with 9-12.
In all, the 101 junior anglers caught 195 bass on Tuesday for a total weight of 271-2. There were 28 limits among the 50 teams that came to the scales. Only one team zeroed.
Today’s weights will carry over to the final day of fishing on Wednesday. The team with the best two-day total will split $2,000 in scholarship money, though if Golubjatnikov still leads the field after the final weigh-in, he will have the entire prize to himself. Members of the second-place team will share $1,000 in scholarship funds.
Takeoff will begin at 6 a.m. CT Wednesday at Carroll County 1,000 Acre Recreation Lake in Huntingdon. Final weigh-in will be held in downtown Huntingdon beginning at 1:45 p.m.