Harkness wins TBF National Championship on Bull Shoals

West Virginia angler nets $100,000 ‘Living the Dream’ prize package


BRANSON, Mo. – Robert Harkness of Elizabeth, W. Va., a 50-year-old health care purchasing manager, is now “Living the Dream” after catching a five bass limit weighing 13 pounds, 11 ounces on the final day of The Bass Federation National Championship presented by the National Guard Saturday on Bull Shoals Lake. He captured the TBF National Championship title with a three-day total catch of 15 bass weighing 40 pounds, 13 ounces.

The victory earned Harkness a $100,000 prize package that includes automatic entry into the $1 million Walmart Bass Fishing League All-American presented by Chevy on the Mississippi River in Davenport, Iowa, May 28-30 and automatic entry into the $2 million Forrest Wood Cup presented by BP and Castrol in Pittsburgh, Pa., July 30-Aug. 2, where the top pro can pocket as much as $1 million – the biggest award in bass fishing.

“I really didn’t think I had a prayer when I went out this morning,” said Harkness. “I told my partner that I was going to go out and fish and do the same thing I have done the past two days and see what happens. This lake is a great lake and you could get five bites and they could all be four or five pounds apiece, and I said it’s not over until it’s over.”

Harkness, who caught all his fish this week on a stickbait, is looking forward to the Forrest Wood Cup. He said, “Pittsburgh is almost home. I have fished the area many times.”

“The TBF is great,” he said. “Every young person ought to get out there and join a club. It really costs you nothing and you get the opportunity to accomplish what I just did.”

In addition to the incredibly lucrative championship berths, Harkness also received $10,000 and a “prize package that includes use of a “Living the Dream” wrapped Chevy truck and Ranger boat powered by Evinrude or Yamaha, sponsor merchandise and entry fees into the 2010 Walmart FLW Tour or Walmart FLW Series to compete against the world’s top bass anglers.

Anglers from six nationwide TBF divisions competed during 2008 and qualified through a series of TBF club, TBF state and TBF divisional tournaments to compete in the no-entry-fee TBF National Championship.

Harkness started the tournament Thursday in 17th place with five bass weighing 13 pounds. He moved into fifth place overall Friday with a five-bass catch weighing 14-2 that bumped his two-day total to 27-2 going into the final day of competition.

Rounding out the division-leading boaters were Nicholas Smyers of Franksville, Wis. (Northern Division, 12 bass, 40-2); Zachary King of Clarksville, Ark. (Central Division, 15 bass, 38-13); Daniel Ellis of Gleason, Tenn. (Southern Division, 14 bass, 34-7); Brandon Craner of Filer, Idaho (Western Division, 12 bass, 34-3); and Rob Lamoy of Chazy, N.Y. (Eastern Division, 11 bass, 21-8).

Overall there were 19 bass weighing 42 pounds, 4 ounces caught by six boaters. The catch included two five-bass limits.

Craner also won a 198VX Ranger as the highest finishing Ranger Cup participant.

Mark Modrak of China Township, Mich., entered the final round of co-angler competition with a slim 9-ounce lead, but fell to second by only bringing in two fish weighing a total of 2 pounds, 13 ounces. The Northern Division angler earned $2,500 for the finish with a total of nine bass weighing a total of 23 pounds. This opened the door for Woody Parks, 35, of Lincolnton, Ga., representing the Southern Division.

Parks overcame the 9-ounce deficit on the final day thanks to two bass weighing 4-03 that boosted his three-day total to 10 bass weighing 23-13, good for a $5,000 cash prize and co-angler entry into the 2009 Forrest Wood Cup for a chance to fish for as much as $50,000. He also earned a berth into the BFL All-American presented by Chevy along with the top co-angler from each TBF division for a chance to fish for as much as $70,000.

“This has not quite sunk in yet, but it will,” Parks said. “I have wanted to make the All-American my whole life and now I am going to get to go. I am still trying to qualify on the boater side to try and make it by fishing BFL trails and have been real close on the boater side. Maybe I will get to go next year too on the boater side.”

Parks said he caught most of his fish on a DT6. “Most of the boaters were paralleling the high bluff banks and anytime they would give me a little leeway, I could throw the crankbait. You had to be hitting rocks to catch any fish. I threw a DT6, jerkbait, Lucky Craft Ghost Minnow and caught one of my better fish on a jig.

Rounding out the co-angler field were Jerry Necaise of Long Beach, Miss. (Central Division, eight bass, 22-0); Eric Stewart of Anmoore, W.Va. (Mid-Atlantic Division, 10 bass, 20-3); David Martinez of Tucson, Ariz. (Western Division, 11 bass, 17-10); and Peter De Moya of Plymouth, Mass. (Eastern Division, five bass, 9-2).

Overall there were 11 bass weighing 19 pounds, 14 ounces caught by six co-anglers. No angler caught a five-bass limit.

The entire field of 44 TBF boaters and 44 co-anglers fished Thursday and Friday for an accumulated two-day weight. The top boater and co-angler from each of the TBF’s six divisions advanced to Saturday’s final round, where the winners were determined by the heaviest three-day accumulated weight.

For full complete standings click here.

The Bass Federation Inc. (TBF) is owned by those it serves and is dedicated to the sport of fishing. TBF affiliated state federations and their member clubs conduct more than 20,000 fishing, youth and conservation events at the local level each year and have provided the foundation for the entire bass fishing industry for more than 30 years. For more information about The Bass Federation, visit bassfederation.com or call (580) 765-9031.