Returning teams tackle Championship

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Ronnie Moore
Scott Clift won the 2017 Team Championship berth to the GEICO Bassmaster Classic.

MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. – There are 162 two-person teams fishing in the 2017 Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship being held on Norfork Lake in the Ozark Mountains this week here in northern Arkansas.

There are some new faces in that crowd, which is logical given that the Team Championship has grown significantly since it started in 2014. But there also were some familiar mugs weighing in at the 101 Boat Dock on Wednesday during Day 1 of this event.

And though they may not yet be household names, these guys are some of the most successful teams in the four-year history of the tournament.

Ty Faber and John Gardner of the Ultimate Bass Team Tour won last year’s team title on Kentucky Lake with a two-day total of 37 pounds, 10 ounces. The Colorado-based tandem entered Day 2 of this year’s championship with some ground to cover – they were 39th with a five-bass limit that weighed 9-3.

Missouri’s Scott Clift and Ashley Medley placed second in last year’s tournament, and Clift led all six anglers in the following two-day individual fish-off to earn a spot in the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.

The duo is back in 2017, but also struggled a bit on Wednesday with a slim limit that weighed 7-8.

Barron Adams and Trevor Prince of the Chattanooga Bass Association picked up where they left off in 2016, however. The team currently stands in third place overall in this year’s championship with a Day 1 limit of 13-2. That puts them just more than 2 pounds behind tournament leaders David and Sean Mulkey who fish on the Joe Bass Team Trail with Clift and Medley.

The 2015 team championship tandem of Chris Risner and Tim Easton is back to fish another day and currently are in 89th place with three bass weighing 5-15. The West Michigan Bass anglers won the team championship on Alabama’s Lake Guntersville two years ago.

Arkansas Bass Team members Flannagan Fife and Cody Davis fought their way to the inaugural team championship on DeGray Lake (also in Arkansas) back in 2014. They are within striking distance of the lead on the second and final day of this tournament (the duo is in 10th place with 11-11.)

Clift said he’s not sure if he and Medley are on the right bass this year to scratch their way to the top of the leaderboard, but he said they won’t give up hope until Thursday’s weigh-in is complete. The intense allure of last year’s team title, and in Clift’s case the subsequent berth in the Bassmaster Classic, drives him to do well again.

“I might never get to fish in another Classic, but meeting everyone down there (on Texas’ Lake Conroe in March) was one of the best moments of my life,” Clift said. “Someone fishing here today is going to get that chance and just have a blast.”