Local angler on top in TBF National Championship

Travis’ 14-14 limit leads TBF National Championship

David Hart

Brian Travis

Brian Travis

If there is such a thing as a home-water curse, you wouldn’t know it after Conover, N.C., angler Brian Travis brought his limit up to the scales on the first day of The Bass Federation National Championship on Lake Wylie.

Travis, a second-shift supervisor for a freight company, has the luxury of spending mornings on the waters around his home before he punches the clock in the afternoon. He takes full advantage of that free time. It showed Thursday with his five-bass limit that tipped the scales at 14 pounds, 14 ounces. Although he calls Lake Norman his home water, Travis placed first in a tournament on Wylie in early March, and he took second in a BFL event soon after that.

“It’s my favorite lake. I know places that very few other anglers fish, and I never really did have to compete with other boats for the bass I was targeting today,” he said.

Travis, fishing in the Southern Division, put forth an exhaustive effort, hitting an estimated 200 different spots on the first day alone. He was sight-fishing for bedded bass, something many other anglers did on the first day. Travis figured he caught 10 bass total and didn’t bother to cast to dozens more. His only concern is that a limit of the fish he left behind won’t add up to the weight he brought in today. Still, Travis feels good about Friday, but he’s not so sure about Saturday, if he makes it that far.

“Everything can change on Saturday when the local anglers come out. I’m not the only one who knows about these fish, but if they don’t get worked over real hard, I feel pretty confident,” he added. “I just have to make it to the third day.”

Erickson second

Jeff Erickson

Jeff Erickson

Ironically, the second-place angler after day one has never been on Wylie until the official practice day, just one day prior to the start of the tournament. Jeff Erickson, a member of Phoenix-based Saguaro Bassmasters, felt at home on Wylie just the same thanks to clear water and bedding bass.

“I’m used to sight-fishing for bass in real clear water, so I was very comfortable fishing on Wylie. I was able to fish to my strengths,” he said. “But these fish were definitely harder to catch than the bass I sight-fish for back home.”

Erickson, representing the Western Division, brought a 14-pound, 8-ounce limit to the scales today and he feels good about his ability to catch another limit, although many of the bass he targeted with finesse baits never did bite. In some cases, he spent 45 minutes or more on a single fish before giving up and moving on to another.

Hoskinson third

Greg Hoskinson

Greg Hoskinson

The third-place angler Greg Hoskinson is 14 ounces behind Travis, but he is also in the Southern Division. If he doesn’t move up he won’t fish on Saturday, even if he brings a heavy sack to the scales on Friday. Only the top anglers in each regional division advance to the final day of competition.

Rest of the best

Osage Beach, Mo., angler Brian Maloney is first in the Central Division and fourth overall with a five-bass limit that weighed 13 pounds, 14 ounces. Jim Gildea of Weston, Mass., leads the Eastern Division with 10 pounds, 7 ounces, and Washington, D.C., resident Robert Williams is on top of the Mid-Atlantic Division with a 13-pound, 3-ounce limit. Terry McWilliams of Indiana is in first place in the Northern Division with five bass that weighed 11 pounds, 14 ounces.

Shawver leads co-anglers

Jerry Shawver

Jerry Shawver

Jerry Shawver is in first place in the co-angler division with a 12-pound, 3-ounce limit. He credits his boat partner for his heavy sack.

“My last fish came within the last five minutes of the day after my partner pointed it out to me. I wouldn’t have caught it if it wasn’t for him,” said Shawver of St. Augustine, Fla.

At stake

The stakes are high for the 40 boaters and 40 co-anglers taking part in this year’s TBF Championship. The winner from each of the Federation’s six regions in the boater and co-angler division earns a berth in the $1 million BFL All-American, and the top boater and co-angler overall wins a slot in the $2 million Forrest Wood Cup. The winner of the boater division also wins the TBF Living The Dream Package, which includes $10,000 in cash, sponsor merchandise, the use of a wrapped Chevy truck and Ranger boat, entry fees for either the FLW Tour or Series and travel expense money.

Anglers launch from Copperhead Island Park at 6:30 Friday and Saturday. Friday’s weigh-in takes place at 4 at the Charlotte Convention Center and the final weigh-in starts at 3 and is held in conjunction with the National Guard Open, also at the Charlotte Convention Center.