FLORENCE, Ala. – Terry Peterson was a newcomer to the B.A.S.S. Nation four years ago.
Today, he could win a spot in the 2021 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic where he’d represent thousands of grass-roots anglers from around the world who, like him, dream of competing in the world’s most-prestigious bass tournament.
Peterson, a 53-year old resident of West Jordan, Utah, won the co-angler division of the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Championship at Pickwick Lake on Thursday with a two-day total of eight bass weighing 21 pounds, 7 ounces. After catching a limit of five bass totaling 14-10 on Wednesday, he came back to earth with a three fish weighing 6-13 a day later. Still, that was the third-heaviest total of the day among the 46 co-anglers in the field and it propelled him to a title.
“My buddy talked me into fishing in a Nation tournament four years ago,” Peterson said. “One thing led to another and here I am. It’s a goal and a dream everyone has, to have an opportunity like this.”
Peterson secured a $10,000 cash prize with the win, as well as entry into each of the Bassmaster Open tournaments in 2021. There’s also the Louis “Pee Wee” Powers Trophy, awarded to the top co-angler at the championship, which no doubt will have a place of honor in Peterson’s home.
But Peterson’s most precious prize so far this week is the extra day of fishing he’ll enjoy today.
He is one of 12 men, and the only co-angler, who will compete Friday for one of three berths on the line for the 2021 Classic, which is scheduled for March 19-21 on Lake Ray Roberts in Fort Worth, Tex.
It’s heady territory for the man who works as a buyer for a national sporting goods store, but he’s proven he belongs with the best anglers competing on Pickwick Lake this week.
Eleven of the dozen remaining competitors at Pickwick fished in the angler division this week, meaning they piloted their own boats and chose where they wanted to fish.
Peterson, however, fished from the back of the boat on Wednesday and Thursday. Now he has his own rig (on loan from B.A.S.S.) and the freedom to fish the spots of his choice for a day.
He said he’s seen enough to know where he was headed Friday morning when anglers took off from McFarland Park at 6 a.m.
“I fished with two really good guys so far,” Peterson said, referring to New Mexico angler Christian Gladfelter (his Day 1 partner) and Arizona’s Justin Kerr, who is in fourth place overall after sharing his boat with Peterson on Thursday.
“I’m a little bit perplexed, though, not having all the GPS marks we did the past two days. I’ve got a good plan. Hopefully the bass bite. I’ll stick to my guns and do what’s worked for me so far.”
Peterson is in ninth place of the 12 anglers still fishing on Pickwick Lake. Louisiana’s Blake Sylvester leads the field with a pair of limits totaling 28-13.
Peterson’s not deterred by the deficit, adding he’s learned a lot about this fishery during practice and through two days of competition.
“The weather was really a lot different today than it was Wednesday,” he said. “I’ve tried a lot of things so far and I feel good about what I can do. I’m excited.”
He’s not alone, of course. Other anglers competing Friday include Wisconsin’s Pat Schlapper, 28-7; Vermont’s Michael Comeau, 26-12; Kerr, 26-1; South Carolina’s Bryan Gunter, 24-8; and 2019 B.A.S.S. Nation Champion Cody Hollen of Oregon, 23-14.
Also in the field are Ohio’s Eddie Levin, 23-10; Massachusetts’ Josh Cotier, 22-7; Alabama’s Joel Smith, 21-4; Idaho’s Jason Hickey, 20-12; and Arkansas’ Josh Ray, 19-12.
The angler finishing second overall in the championship will win $15,000 cash, a Classic berth and entries into all 2021 Open events, while third place is good for $10,000, a spot in the Classic and invites to all Opens.
In all, 94 angler and co-angler champions from 46 states qualified for the championship on Pickwick for a total purse of $176,800 in cash and prizes. North Dakota, Connecticut, Hawaii and Alaska are the only states not represented this year and foreign competitors couldn’t travel because of restrictions in place to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.
The TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Championship will conclude with Friday’s weigh-in, which is scheduled for 2 p.m. and can be seen on Bassmaster.com.
Visit Florence is hosting the tournament.