New York Junior angler fishing solo

Rein Golub from New York fishing the Junior Championship.

HUNTINGDON, Tenn. – Ken Golubjatnikov kept telling his son Rein that his best bet to land big bass during New York’s B.A.S.S. Youth Nation state championship was to keep his rod tip down.

The elder Golubjatnikov had fished more than 40 tournaments on Lake Cayuga before, and as a guide on New York’s Finger Lakes, he has a pretty deep understanding of what to do and how to do it.

But what Ken had in mind was not what his 13-year-old son thought best. Rein found that pointing the rod tip up a little bit helped his spinner bait get a bit more action underwater. The fish were biting pretty good that day, but Rein thought a little extra action on his lure might provoke even more bites.

Rein was right. He wound up catching a five-bass limit of 22 pounds, 4 ounces that day which propelled him to his third consecutive youth state championship. The victory also earned him entry into the Costa Bassmaster Junior Championship presented by DICK’s Sporting Goods for the third time. The 2017 championship is being held June 20-21 on Carroll Country 1000 Acre Recreation Lake in northwest Tennessee.

“I’ve fished Cayuga a lot; a whole lot,” Ken Golubjatnikov said. “And I have never caught 22-4 on that lake. Rein just has a knack for catching big fish. He’s got his own style, and he’s really competitive.”

Rein, who will be an eighth grader during the next school year, is the only angler in a field of 101 entered in the junior national championship who will be fishing alone. The remainder of the teams, which hail from 28 states and Canada, pair two of each participating states’ top anglers who fought their way through qualifiers back home for the right to fish against the best of their peers here in northwest Tennessee.

Action in the Junior National Championship kicked off today with a 6 a.m. launch. The teams will bring their five heaviest fish to the scales in downtown Huntingdon at 1:45 p.m. both days, and the team with the heaviest two-day total will take home scholarship money, handsome trophies and national-caliber bragging rights for a full year.

Rein doesn’t have the advantage of having an extra stick on board to help fill the livewell. Instead, he’ll fish the entire day by himself, and his dad will be on board as captain and coach to offer occasional advice as allowed by Youth Nation Rules. Rein’s school year is just now ending in New York, and he took his exams early so he could be here to fish the national championship, even though he knew he’d be without a teammate by doing so.

“I love being with my dad and being part of a team,” Rein said. “It’s always good to have another person onboard fishing with you, but I’ll be alright alone. Sometimes it can be better. I can do what I want to do the whole time.”

Ken said Rein has been doing his own thing aboard the family boat for a few years now. Rein began fishing in earnest with his dad when he was 6 or 7 years old, and the duo spends about 50 days a year on the water together.

Sure, it’s quality time, Ken Golubjatnikov said, but it’s also learning time.

“Rein picks up things really quickly, and he appreciates the sport,” Ken said. “It builds his confidence. And he’s already competitive which makes him tough to beat. It’s pretty funny to watch him win money off some grumpy old men in the Tuesday night tournaments.”

It’s experience in those routine club tournaments back home in Rochester, N.Y., that have allowed Rein to sharpen his skills, and not be intimidated – even when he’s fishing alone on youth bass fishing’s biggest stage. Ken estimated his son already has competed in at least 40 tournaments in the past few years, and he shows no signs of being intimidated.

“Those are events where there’s some kind of award at the end,” Ken said. “So he’s not afraid to compete with stakes on the line.”

Neither is Ken, it turns out. An avid angler himself on the B.A.S.S. Nation circuit, Ken Golubjatnikov finished sixth in the Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Eastern Regional presented by Magellan Outdoors which was held last week on Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. That qualified him for a berth in the national championship of that series, which will be held in October on Lake Hartwell in South Carolina. It will be the second time in four years Ken has reached the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship.

So representing New York in national tournaments is nothing new to the Ken and Rein Golubjatnikov. Both are excited about Rein’s future prospects, given that by the age of 13, he’s had more high-level experience than anglers three times his age had under their belt as short as 10 years ago.

“I definitely want to fish in high school and college,” Rein said. “Fishing this much as a kid gives me an advantage, I think. It gives me the upper hand.”