After two days of preliminary fishing to whittle down the 2017 The Bass Federation National Championship field to 49 boaters and 49 co-anglers – the top from each state and province competing this week – weights were zeroed for the third round of competition held today at Table Rock Lake. The famed Missouri impoundment produced heavy limits, epic comebacks and the promise of even more exciting grassroots bass action to come.
Indiana’s Allen Boyd took full advantage of the opportunity and shook off a slow start that saw him 25th overall earlier in the week. Boyd grab the lead today among the boaters with 17 pounds, 14 ounces. The weight was more than 2 pounds heavier than any limit brought in the first two days.
“I made a long run and caught fish all day,” says Boyd, who was tight-lipped about his pattern.
It’s worth noting that Boyd is no stranger to championship comebacks. In 2011, he rallied from 13th on day one to win the TBF National Championship on Nickajack Lake in Tennessee.
Whether he can rally for a repeat crown remains to be seen, but he’s cautiously optimistic.
“The fish gotta cooperate,” he says. “But if we get more sun, it could work out.”
Boyd and company will compete again tomorrow, and then the field will be narrowed down to the top boater and co-angler from each of TBF’s seven divisions. Those 14 finalists will fish on Saturday for the title, but they also advance to the 2017 BFL All-American. The winning boater qualifies for the 2017 Forrest Wood Cup for a shot at winning the biggest payday in bass fishing.
The winning boater will also receive the $100,000 “Living the Dream” package to include a cash prize, fully paid entry fees on the 2018 FLW Tour as a pro, travel expense stipends for each event and use of a “Living the Dream” wrapped Ranger boat with Evinrude outboard for the year.
Chasing Boyd is Florida’s John Mobely (above), who freely admits his home waters on the St. Johns River are nothing like Table Rock Lake, and that he struggled earlier in the championship to get a handle on the mighty reservoir, which spans nearly 43,000 acres.
“I barely beat out the other guy from Florida to make the cut,” he says. “I feel fortunate and thank the good Lord for that.”
Today didn’t start out much better, however.
“At 1 o’clock I had one 15-inch spotted bass in the livewell,” he says. “So I gambled and made a little run to a spot that had smaller fish on it Saturday. I guess the females have pulled up in there because I caught four pretty quick, and then another two so I could cull that little bitty spot.”
The result was a 15-pound, 10-ounce limit that put him in second overall and on top of the Southern Division. By comparison, he tallied just four bass for 9 pounds, 4 ounces the first two days of the championship and found himself in 63rd overall among the boaters.
With two days to go, Mobely is looking ahead, not behind.
“I feel good about my chances,” he says. “Coming into the tournament, I figured you would need 15 pounds each of the last three days to win, and I’m on that pace. If I keep doing what I’m doing, hopefully I can bring it home.”
For Arizona’s Jon Griffith (above), the event offers a chance at redemption from a close finish at last season’s championship, where he finished strong but landed in second place behind Joseph Webster of Mississippi.
Griffith was third overall the first two days of competition with 24 pounds, 8 ounces. He brought in a 13-pound, 11-ounce limit today to again land in third.
“I’m excited,” he says. “Absolutely nothing is different than last year. As soon as I pulled in for practice, I started catching fish the same way I did last year, so all I had to do was expand the program.”
Griffith’s 2016 strategy hinged on finesse fishing clear water near the bank.
“It’s the same program now, except I still have 60 waypoints I haven’t even touched yet,” he says. “A lot of it depends on the weather, but if it stays sunny, hopefully I can keep on doing it. I can’t wait to see what happens.”
Brad Brodnicki (above) of New York, who led the boaters on days one and two, found his fortunes flowing the opposite direction, though in more of a trickle than a waterfall. After weighing in 15-08 and 13-02 limits earlier in the week, he boxed 12-10 today, slipping to seventh overall. Still, he remains atop the Eastern Division and 10 ounces ahead of his closest divisional rival, Herbert Meyer IV of Maine.
“Today was a little pinched,” Brodnicki says. “I had some fish lined up, but the water temperature dropped 5 degrees overnight, the water clarity changed, the fish dropped off of where I was and the bite shut down. The whole first half of the day I was searching around looking for new fish and ended up going to an area I wanted to save for the next few days. They anchored my bag, but tomorrow will be a little bit of a grind.”
Antrup leads co-anglers
While Body paced the boaters, fellow Hoosier Jeremy Antrup racked up 13 pounds, 13 ounces from the back of the boat to take the co-angler lead.
“I had an incredible day today. My boater put me on fish, and we had consistent fishing all day,” he says.
Looking ahead, Antrup also foresees good things with the expected warm, sunny weather.
“It should be more of the same,” he says.
The action continues tomorrow at the Port of Kimberling Marina and Resort, 72 Marina Way, Kimberling City, Mo. Takeoff is at 7 a.m. CT, and weigh-in begins at 3 p.m.
Top 10 Boaters
1. Allen Boyd, Indiana – 17-14 (5)
2. John Mobley, Florida – 15-10 (5)
3. Jon Griffith, Arizona – 13-11 (5)
4. Joshua Moore, Louisiana – 13-10 (5)
5. Robert Walla, Nebraska – 13-05 (5)
6. Greg Hoskinson, Kentucky – 12-13 (5)
7. Brad Brodnicki, New York – 12-10 (5)
8. Doug Thompson, Arkansas – 12-06 (5)
9. Herbert Meyer IV, Maine – 12-00 (5)
9. Ben Warren, Idaho – 12-00 (5)
Top 10 Co-Anglers
1. Jeremy Antrup, Indiana – 13-13 (5)
2. Ross Cagle, Louisiana – 11-12 (5)
3. Brian LaClair, Delaware – 10-13 (5)
4. Thomas Prowant, Pennsylvania – 10-06 (4)
5. Eric Storms, South Dakota – 10-04 (5)
6. David Simmons, Oregon – 10-00 (4)
7. Steven Martins, Connecticut – 9-13 (5)
7. Brad Jernigan, Mississippi – 9-13 (5)
9. Kevin Higgins, Washington – 9-08 (4)
10. Mike Alvarez, California – 9-01 (5)