GADSDEN, Ala. – One took a title by a landslide, another won it by a hair. Such is the story of the 2006 National Guard Junior World Championship on Lake Neely Henry, with Johnathan Jones of Chickasha, Okla., eking out a victory in the age 11 to 14 division and Josh Wagy of Dewitt, Va., dominating in the age 15 to 18 category.
Although not everyone could walk away with a TBF championship title under his – or her – belt, a good time was had by all today in Gadsden, as pro qualifiers from this week’s Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship took a TBF junior qualifier from each age division out on Neely Henry for a fine day of fishing. Sixty competitors – 30 per age division – fished beneath the hot Alabama sun with some of their heroes, altogether bringing in 140 bass and 14 five-bass limits.
In the age 11 to 14 category, Payden Hibdon of Stover, Mo., threatened with a four-bass catch weighing 9 pounds, 3 ounces, but that was not enough to dethrone Jones and his three-bass catch of 9 pounds, 6 ounces. The Oklahoma qualifier fished out of Kentucky pro Ramie Colson Jr.’s National Guard-wrapped Ranger and learned quite a bit in the process.
“I did a lot of stuff I usually don’t do at home,” Jones said. “(Colson) had to show me how to do it. I was reeling way too fast.”
What Jones was trying – and failing, at first – to do was fish the bottom with a worm.
“It was pretty hard,” he said. “I lost a lot of them.”
Colson blamed Jones’ initial slow going on his 17-pound-test line, which was a bit too heavy for the finesse presentation the fish apparently wanted.
“The boy in the front of the boat (15 to 18 competitor Colby Cotterill) loved to fish a spinning rod, and he was catching them,” Colson said. “Johnathan was fishing 17-pound line, and I told him that was too big. He was getting pretty frustrated. He didn’t catch his first fish until about noon. I said, `Don’t move it; just drag it.’ The next thing I know, his line’s moving. I said, `If it’s a bass, it’s a good one.'”
It was indeed a bass, and a good one at that, enabling Jones to take the title with only three fish in the livewell.
“Bottom fishing is something I really hadn’t practiced in a long time,” Jones said, adding that he caught his bass on a finesse worm. “This feels really good.”
As champion in the age 11 to 14 category, Jones earned a scholarship from the National Guard worth $5,000, and his state TBF chapter in Oklahoma received a $1,000 youth grant from the National Guard. He also earned a $500 Wal-Mart gift card as the recipient of the Castrol Maximum Performance award, and the rest of his winner’s bounty included a Lowrance handheld GPS H2Oc unit and a Yamaha clothing certificate.
Hibdon just shy of second national title
Payden Hibdon is well-known for his pedigree – he’s the son of FLW Tour championship contender Dion Hibdon and the grandson of legend Guido Hibdon. Back in February, he won a major national fishing competition and would have added National Guard Junior World Champion to the list today were it not for an 8-ounce penalty for not bringing in all four of his fish alive.
“I caught one on a Senko on a seawall,” said Hibdon, whose four-bass catch weighed 9 pounds, 3 ounces. “It swallowed it. The second came on a jig worm that I was throwing under some docks. The last one I got under the dock in 10 feet of water.”
Hibdon fished from the boat of pro Alvin Shaw and earned a $4,000 National Guard scholarship. He too earned a Lowrance GPS unit and a Yamaha clothing certificate, and his state TBF chapter in Missouri received a $1,000 youth grant from the National Guard.
Young fishes docks all the way to third
“I caught them on docks and dock pillars that were under them,” Young said, noting that he used 10-inch Berkley Power Bait worms. “I fished docks all day. The most productive place was back in a cove. I had a blast.”
Young fished in the boat of pro Jason Knapp today. He earned a $3,000 National Guard scholarship as the third-place finisher as well as a Lowrance GPS unit and a Yamaha clothing certificate. A $1,000 youth grant was given by the National Guard to his state TBF chapter in Kansas.
Rest of the best
Taking fourth place is Kurt Mitchell of Milford, Del., who fished alongside his hero Larry Nixon. He caught a five-bass limit weighing 7 pounds, 11 ounces to earn a $2,000 National Guard scholarship, a Lowrance GPS unit and a Yamaha clothing certificate.
Behind him in fifth is Matt Carabello of Discovery Bay, Calif., with a limit of bass weighing 7 pounds, 10 ounces. He fished in the boat of Kentucky pro Dan Morehead to earn a $1,000 National Guard scholarship, a Lowrance GPS unit and a Yamaha clothing certificate.
The National Guard donated a $1,000 youth grant to the state TBF chapters of each of the top five finishers in both divisions.
Wagy tops in the 15 to 18 age group
Bass pro in the making Josh Wagy made Virginia proud today with his dominating limit weighing 15 pounds to take victory in his age category by more than 4 pounds. He and Ohio’s Eddie Levin fished out of the boat of Florida pro Glenn Browne today.
If you follow FLW Outdoors fishing, you might have heard Wagy’s name before – in addition to the Federation, he also competes in the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League and the Stren Series as a co-angler.
“I started out throwing a buzzbait this morning,” Wagy said of his winning pattern. “When the sun got up, I started fishing a jig around grass and boat docks.”
Wagy’s skills not only wowed Browne but also Alabama pro Steve Kennedy and reportedly Jay Yelas, who both watched him bring in some big ones.
As for Wagy, he says his hard-earned victory is particularly sweet now that he is 18 and is fishing his last Junior World Championship.
“I just stayed focused and gave it my all,” he said. “It’s my last one, and I wanted to go out with a bang.”
As the champion, Wagy earned a $5,000 National Guard scholarship, a Lowrance handheld GPS H2Oc unit and a Yamaha clothing certificate. He also took home a $500 gift card as the recipient of the Castrol Maximum Performance award. A $1,000 National Guard youth grant was also awarded to Wagy’s state TBF chapter in Virginia.
Alarid takes second
“All my fish came off a Reaction Innovations method crank in a chartreuse color,” Alarid said. Waving behind him at the launch ramp, he said, “I was up here on the bridge piling, and it reminded me of lakes in California, so I picked up a drop-shot and caught a 4-pounder.”
Indeed, Alarid’s West Coast background served him well today in the deep South.
“I fished it like I fish the California Delta,” he said of Lake Neely Henry. “I looked for docks and current.”
For second place, Alarid received a $4,000 National Guard scholarship, a Lowrance GPS unit and a Yamaha clothing certificate. His state TBF chapter in California also received a $1,000 National Guard youth grant.
Felix Senkos into third
Using a bait touted by many of today’s competitors, Blake Felix of Raymore, Mo., and his Senko brought in a limit of bass weighing 9 pounds, 14 ounces to take third place in the 15 to 18 age category. His pro escort today was Tim Klinger.
“I think I had about nine keepers, but I couldn’t get a big one,” Felix said. “I fished the grass, and it got better as it wore on. I think our boat had 17 keepers today.”
Indeed, Dave Saterbak of Maple Grove, Minn., also fished out of Klinger’s boat and finished eighth in the 15 to 18 division.
As the third-place finisher, Felix earned a $3,000 National Guard scholarship, a Lowrance GPS unit and a Yamaha clothing certificate. His home-state TBF chapter in Minnesota also received a $1,000 youth grant from the National Guard.
Rest of the best
In the fourth spot in the 15 to 18 age group is Wil Dieffenbauch of Hundred, W. Va., who fished in the boat of Kentucky pro Terry Bolton. Dieffenbauch brought in five bass that weighed 9 pounds, 3 ounces to earn a $2,000 National Guard scholarship, a Lowrance GPS unit and a Yamaha clothing certificate. The West Virginia TBF chapter also received a $1,000 National Guard youth grant.
Taking fifth place is Sam Nelson of Hutchinson, Kan., with a limit of bass that weighed 8 pounds, 11 ounces. Nelson was accompanied today by pro Tony Couch. As the fifth-place finisher, Nelson took home a $1,000 National Guard scholarship, a Lowrance GPS unit and a Yamaha clothing certificate. His state TBF chapter in Kansas received a $1,000 National Guard youth grant.
For a complete list of results in both divisions, click here.