Massachusetts angler returns after 34 years

In 1980, a young Massachusetts angler packed his bags for Grand Lake O' The Cherokees to join the likes of Denny Brauer and Ken Cook in the B.A.S.S. Chapter Championship.

Thirty-four years later that same angler has returned to the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship on the Ouachita River for another shot at championship glory.

"I was just a kid when I fished the championship the first time," said Massachusetts B.A.S.S. Nation representative Jeff Kenney. "I was 17 years old when I qualified and 18 when I competed. I was fishing against all of the guys I looked up to."

Back in 1980, the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship followed a slightly different format. Instead of each state sending one competitor, six anglers from each state would qualify to fish the championship.

"Ray Scott was the emcee that year, and I can remember him on stage introducing me as the youngest angler to compete in a national championship," Kenney said. "It was such a great experience for a young angler."

At the conclusion of the 1980 championship, Kenney was forced to make a decision, one that many young anglers still face today: continue on as a touring pro or go to college.

"Maybe if I had been 25 years old, I would have made a different decision, but at 18, I decided to go to college," Kenney said.

Now, Kenney returns as a veteran B.A.S.S. Nation angler with a different perspective. 

"In the old days, all of the locals always did well because they knew the water," Kenney said. "Now, with the technology that's available, anglers can come from all over the world and fish almost as competitively as someone who lives on the river.

"In 1980, it was me against them. Now, we're all on an even playing field."

When asked what he's looking forward to the most this week, Kenney said simply, "Earning a Classic berth. It's everyone's dream."