GROVE, Oklahoma—John Talton of Georgetown, Tenn., brought a 5-bass limit to the scale Thursday weighing 20 pounds, 1 ounce to take the lead after day one in the Boater Division of The Bass Federation’s 2014 National Championship on Grand Lake.
Talton holds a healthy lead over second-place boater Dave Cermak of Hebron, Ind., who sacked five bass weighing 15 pounds, 9 ounces heading into day two of the three-day event that features 94 of North America’s best grassroots bass tournament anglers competing for more than $200,000 in cash and prizes.
“It feels great right now,” Talton said of taking the lead. “But I have to do it again tomorrow.”
Based on his results during pre-fishing, Talton said breaking the 20-pound barrier today was a complete surprise. “I had a terrible practice,” he said, explaining that he boated just four fish during three days of learning the ropes on the legendary fishery. He attributed his dramatic improvement to warming water temperatures and trying new fishing techniques, thanks in part to his non-boater.
That’s not to say Talton windmilled bass all day long. In fact, he didn’t round out his big basket until the very end. “I caught two fish right away, and then ran around for awhile before coming back to the spot and catching a third fish,” he said. When that bite faded completely, he moved a final time, dug in his heels and prepared to finish the day.
“As it turned out, I caught three good fish in the last hour,” he grinned.
As the sun set on day one, Talton was determined to come out swinging in the morning. “I’m going to get a good night’s sleep, do the same thing I did today and hope they bite again,” he said.
While Talton reversed his fortunes from practice, many anglers crossing the stage with less than their limit lamented having the opposite experience. Some reported enjoying stellar action prior to the event, only to see their patterns evaporate as south winds gusting to 35 mph and air temperatures climbing into the 80s changed the playing field.
The conditions didn’t faze Don Muir of Perryhall, Md., who weighed in five bass totaling 20 pounds, 2 ounces to take the overall lead in the Non-Boater Division. Brian Maloney of Osage Beach, Mo., landed in second place with a five-bass limit weighing 15 pounds, 1 ounce.
“It’s so exciting to be in the lead, words can’t describe it,” said Muir, who was the talk of the tournament after bagging the day’s biggest basket from the back of the boat. He caught the fish by throwing an Alabama rig to windswept points. He also admits he’s never fished one before. “We can’t use them back home in Maryland,” he explained. “But my good friend Jeremy Starks told me months ago I had to try A-rigs on Grand Lake. I tried them all three days of practice and never caught a fish on one.”
But when throwing the cage yielded an 8-pound bass once the tournament began, Muir vowed to keep fishing it. “I caught seven bass on an Alabama rig today, and they were the right fish,” he said.
By division, the top boaters after day one at Grand Lake are:
Central: Jeremy Sorensen, Fremont, Neb., five bass, 12-12
Eastern: Dino Moutogiannis, Newington, Conn., five bass, 14-5
Mid-Atlantic: Thomas Turner, Kingsville, Md., five bass, 15-7
Northern: Dave Cermak, Hebron, Ind., five bass, 15-9
Northwest: Aaron Echternkamp, Moses Lake, Wash., two bass, 5-4
Southern: John Talton, Georgetown, Tenn., five bass, 20-1
Southwest: Wade Headrick, Herriman, Ut., four bass, 11-12
By division, top non-boaters after day one are:
Central: Brian Maloney, Osage Beach, Mo., five bass, 15-1
Eastern: Candy Carrasquillo, Springfield, Mass., five bass, 8-14
Mid-Atlantic: Don Muir, Perryhall, Md., five bass, 20-2
Northern: Nickolas Marsh, Commerce Twp., Mich., five bass, 13-4
Northwest: Don Collins, Kalispell, Mont., two bass, 6-7
Southern: Stephen Scoggin, Lebanon, Tenn., five bass, 12-13
Southwest: Richard Vizcarra, Peoria, Ariz., five bass, 13-4
For Complete Results CLICK HERE
In all, boaters tallied 130 bass weighing 353 pounds, 2 ounces. The catch included 10 limits. Non-boaters brought 105 bass to the scale weighing 282 pounds, 7 ounces. Non-boaters recorded 10 limits.
Overall big fish of the day was an 8-pound, 1-ounce behemoth brought in by non-boater Al Grabowski of Andover, Minn. “I got it with about an hour to go in the afternoon,” he said. “I cast a jerkbait off a point, twitched it twice and felt a little tick. I thought, ‘That feels like a fish.’ So I set the hook and that was it. I knew it was a good one right away.” Although the trophy was Grabowski’s lone bass of the day, it was heavy enough to land him in a respectable 17th place. Given Grand Lake’s potential for giving up monster baskets, it left the Gopher State bass fan well within striking distance of a spot in the finals.
While boater Bill Simpson of Stanton, Mich., didn’t sack a limit, he did touch the hearts of the weigh-in crowd gathered lakeside at scenic Wolf Creek Park. “A friend of mine’s 6-year-old son is battling cancer, and I told him I would dedicate the first fish I catch to him,” he said. “As it turned out, it was my big fish of the day.” The brave young man, Drew Clarke, loves bass fishing and has drawn prayers and support from many fellow bass anglers, including TBF and FLW competitors from across the U.S.
All anglers compete the first two days of the TBF championship, which runs April 10-12, after which the top boater and non-boater from each of the seven national divisions move on to the final day. Each division winner also receives a paid entry into the prestigious BFL All-American Tournament.
At the end of day three, the overall boater and non-boater champions also receive an invitation to fish the FLW Forrest Wood Cup, and win a coveted TBF Living The Dream Package. The boater’s package includes paid entry fees to the FLW Tour as a touring pro, plus cash, the use of a custom-wrapped Chevy truck and Ranger boat for the year, and a travel stipend for each event. The top non-boater will receive fully paid entry fees into the Rayovac Series of choice.
Additional cash and prizes include a new, fully-rigged Ranger Z 518c to the top Ranger Cup-qualified boater, and $5,000 to the top non-boater in the Ranger Cup Program. Plus, the Grand Lake Extravaganza offers the chance at catching a tagged fish worth $250,000.
Take-offs all three days will be held at Wolf Creek Park, beginning at 7 a.m. on Day 1 and Day 2, and 6:45 a.m. on Day 3. Weigh-ins Day 1 and 2 will be held at Wolf Creek beginning at 3 p.m. On Day 3, the 2014 national champions will be crowned on the FLW stage at the John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers, Arkansas. Held in conjunction with the FLW Tour’s Beaver Lake tournament, the final day’s festivities include the FLW Expo beginning at noon; TBF weigh-in at 3 p.m.; and FLW Tour weigh-in at 4 p.m. All activities are free and open to the public.
The TBF National Championship is produced by a partnership between The Bass Federation and FLW Outdoors. Sponsors include Chevy, Ranger Boats, Evinrude, Cabela’s, Solar Bat, Berkley, Lowrance, Power-Pole, Indigo Sky Casino, Grand Lake Association and Travel Oklahoma. For details, visit bassfederation.com, contact TBF National Headquarters at (580) 765-9031.