Team Championship begins

Over 150 teams begin Day 1 on DeGray Lake for the Toyota Bonus Bucks Team Championship.

On a frosty December morning, the DeGray Lake State Park Marina saw a flurry of activity with the Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship.
Photo: Seigo Saito - On a frosty December morning, the DeGray Lake State Park Marina saw a flurry of activity with the Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship.
Kevin Whitehurst and Ray Hogge wait for Day 1, but they’re not too optimistic. Whitehurst bought several 1-ounce spinnerbaits in the marina shop. “We eliminated everything else.”
Photo: Seigo Saito - Kevin Whitehurst and Ray Hogge wait for Day 1, but they’re not too optimistic. Whitehurst bought several 1-ounce spinnerbaits in the marina shop. “We eliminated everything else.”
Wilson Burton and Jeff Powers of Virginia do some final prep work.
Photo: Seigo Saito - Wilson Burton and Jeff Powers of Virginia do some final prep work.
Todd Walters and Jason Threadgill of North Carolina get their rods ready for action.
Photo: Seigo Saito - Todd Walters and Jason Threadgill of North Carolina get their rods ready for action.
Jason Sullivan and Pete Bayerle of Lexington, Ky., relax as they have a long wait, launching 150th out of the 155 boats.
Photo: Seigo Saito - Jason Sullivan and Pete Bayerle of Lexington, Ky., relax as they have a long wait, launching 150th out of the 155 boats.
 Josh Moore and Keith Butler of Tennessee predicted their hot start, saying they knew how deep fish were suspended. “I’m feeling good about it,” Moore said.
Photo: Seigo Saito - Josh Moore and Keith Butler of Tennessee predicted their hot start, saying they knew how deep fish were suspended. “I’m feeling good about it,” Moore said.
David Caylor of Enterprise, Ala., pulling out his weapons, was going with googles for the chilly morning.
Photo: Seigo Saito - David Caylor of Enterprise, Ala., pulling out his weapons, was going with googles for the chilly morning.
Kent Simmons of California records of video of himself as he waits for the 7 a.m. launch.
Photo: Seigo Saito - Kent Simmons of California records of video of himself as he waits for the 7 a.m. launch.
Boat No. 1 of Keith Speece and Myles Ireland from North Carolina is in position at the dock.
Photo: Seigo Saito - Boat No. 1 of Keith Speece and Myles Ireland from North Carolina is in position at the dock.
Speece and Ireland stand at attention for the playing of the national anthem.
Photo: Seigo Saito - Speece and Ireland stand at attention for the playing of the national anthem.
The 155 boats fill the cove around the marina, where some said they planned to fish.
Photo: Seigo Saito - The 155 boats fill the cove around the marina, where some said they planned to fish.
One boat is late getting in line but the anglers know to wave to a camera.
Photo: Seigo Saito - One boat is late getting in line but the anglers know to wave to a camera.
After their boat is checked, Speece and Ireland move away from the dock at 7 a.m. on the dot.
Photo: Seigo Saito - After their boat is checked, Speece and Ireland move away from the dock at 7 a.m. on the dot.
The flotilla is on the move and starts to resemble a line. It’s a slow process at first, with a lot asking each other’s boat numbers.
Photo: Seigo Saito - The flotilla is on the move and starts to resemble a line. It’s a slow process at first, with a lot asking each other’s boat numbers.
Frost covered a number of unprotected boat decks. The gangway to the docks also was a slippery slope.
Photo: Seigo Saito - Frost covered a number of unprotected boat decks. The gangway to the docks also was a slippery slope.
The procession is organized chaos.
Photo: Seigo Saito - The procession is organized chaos.
Joe Johnson of Utah gets on his game face. He needs that beanie, underneath he’s clean shaven.
Photo: Seigo Saito - Joe Johnson of Utah gets on his game face. He needs that beanie, underneath he’s clean shaven.
Freezing temps had anglers bundled up in various protective gear.
Photo: Seigo Saito - Freezing temps had anglers bundled up in various protective gear.
An Arizona team gets through the check and readies to blast off.
Photo: Seigo Saito - An Arizona team gets through the check and readies to blast off.
Each team is thrown a fob for their check-in.
Photo: Seigo Saito - Each team is thrown a fob for their check-in.
Joe Johnson’s teammate, Sidney Reeves, captures some of the action as they have a high launch number.
Photo: Seigo Saito - Joe Johnson’s teammate, Sidney Reeves, captures some of the action as they have a high launch number.
B.A.S.S. official Jon Stewart calls out the teams and tate as they pass the dock.
Photo: Seigo Saito - B.A.S.S. official Jon Stewart calls out the teams and tate as they pass the dock.
The sun popping over the horizon is a welcome sight.
Photo: Seigo Saito - The sun popping over the horizon is a welcome sight.
A photographer with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission works from the top deck of a pontoon boat.
Photo: Seigo Saito - A photographer with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission works from the top deck of a pontoon boat.
The first set of boats clear the no-wake zone near the marina and blast out onto DeGray Lake.
Photo: Seigo Saito - The first set of boats clear the no-wake zone near the marina and blast out onto DeGray Lake.
The procession behind them continues. It took 45 minutes to blast off.
Photo: Seigo Saito - The procession behind them continues. It took 45 minutes to blast off.
Teams pass the dock where lights and livewells are checked, then they are questioned whether they know their check-in time.
Photo: Seigo Saito - Teams pass the dock where lights and livewells are checked, then they are questioned whether they know their check-in time.
Johnson and Reeves make it through the line.
Photo: Seigo Saito - Johnson and Reeves make it through the line.
It’s a sharp turn past the dock for an idle out past the breakers.
Photo: Seigo Saito - It’s a sharp turn past the dock for an idle out past the breakers.
A B.A.S.S. crew mans the dock as the 155 boats, which hail from almost every state and Canada, head out for the event that will crown the team champion.
Photo: Seigo Saito - A B.A.S.S. crew mans the dock as the 155 boats, which hail from almost every state and Canada, head out for the event that will crown the team champion.
The teams fish for two days, when one will be crowned champion.
Photo: Seigo Saito - The teams fish for two days, when one will be crowned champion.
Then the six members of the top three teams fish in identical Skeeter boats on Friday and Saturday.
Photo: Seigo Saito - Then the six members of the top three teams fish in identical Skeeter boats on Friday and Saturday.
The winner after those two days earns the final berth to the 2015 Bassmaster Classic.
Photo: Seigo Saito - The winner after those two days earns the final berth to the 2015 Bassmaster Classic.
The final competitors pull away from the marina.
Photo: Seigo Saito - The final competitors pull away from the marina.
The holeshots are filled with hope.
Photo: Seigo Saito - The holeshots are filled with hope.
Anglers give an optimistic thumbs up.
Photo: Seigo Saito - Anglers give an optimistic thumbs up.
Thousands of anglers in hundreds of events fought their way to be in the Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship and have the final shot at the Classic.
Photo: Seigo Saito - Thousands of anglers in hundreds of events fought their way to be in the Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship and have the final shot at the Classic.