Daily Results CLICK HEREDay 2 Weigh in Friday August 9, 2018 at 2:00pm
April 14, 2018
By Dan Johnson
Undaunted by roller coaster weather conditions, falling water levels and intense competition, California’s Austin Wilson turned three days of rock-solid springtime bass fishing into a $120,000 payday at The Bass Federation’s 2018 National Championship.
Held April 12-14 on Bull Shoals Lake out of Flippin, Arkansas, the event featured an elite field of 54 boaters and 54 co-anglers from across the continent, who qualified at 22 district competitions in the TBF’s National Semi-Final system.
Thanks to the success of that recently adopted qualifying format, the field competed for an all-time record payout of nearly $300,000 in cash and prizes.
Top prize, awarded to the top boater, was the coveted $120,000 “Living the Dream” prize package, which included an increased 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 for the year.
“Anglers practiced in their own boats Monday and Tuesday, then transferred their gear to brand-new, Evinrude-powered Ranger boats for the final day of practice,” TBF President and CEO Robert Cartlidge explained. “Everyone fished out of these state-of-the-art Rangers on Thursday and Friday, after which the field was cut to the top boater and co-angler from each of the TBF’s seven divisions for Saturday’s final round.”
Wilson’s drive to claim “Living the Dream” winnings and ultimate bragging rights on the grassroots bass fishing scene began with serious research from his home in Citrus Heights, just outside Sacramento. “As soon as I found we were fishing Bull Shoals, I spent as much time as possible on Google Earth, dissecting the lake and getting an idea where I thought the bass would position to move in and spawn,” he said.
Wilson’s home waters include the California Delta, plus Folsom and Clear lakes, and although his favorite tactics are frogging and flipping, he’s a firm believer in versatility. “I don’t like to put myself in any one category,” he says. “My weakness is cranking, but I still caught a lot of my fish this week on crankbaits.”
Wilson started the championship with a 5-fish day one limit weighing 14 pounds, 2 ounces. The catch included a pair of largemouths that hit a compact Picasso Alabama rig near a bridge 25 minutes from takeoff at the Bull Shoals Boat Dock, and a trio of smallies taken barely a long cast from the ramp.
“I got the smallmouths on a Norman Little N in Reverse Green Craw,” he says. “I was fishing chunk rock on a secondary point in 5 to 10 feet of water.”
The weight put him atop the Southwest Division and within striking distance of overall leader Cody Huddleston of West Virginia, who brought 15 pounds, 9 ounces to the scale.
As he idled onto Bull Shoals the second morning, Wilson was in a dead heat with Kentucky’s B.J. Nelson, who was representing the Southern Division. Wilson followed a similar game plan. Although the bridge failed to produce, a mix of A-rigs and cranking Little N’s yielded all the keepers.
As fate would have it, both anglers turned in identical limits again on day two. Each weighed 13 pounds, 9 ounces to lead their divisions and the entire field with 27 pounds, 11 ounces.
Wilson stuck to the same game plan on day three. Again, the bridge was a bust. But his two-pronged crankbait and A-rig program yielded a respectable limit in 10 feet of water on secondary points near the weigh-in area.
“I didn’t think I had enough to win it,” he admits. Still, the 12-pound, 9-ounce basket was enough for a 40-pound, 4-ounce total that put him more than 3 pounds ahead of his closes rival.
“I’m ecstatic,” he said after claiming the crown. “I’ve been fishing as long as I can remember, and ever since I was about 16 I knew this is what I wanted to do with my life. I’m thankful TBF offers an opportunity like this.”
In fact, Wilson became interested in TBF after seeing fellow Californian Mark Daniels Jr. win the TBF championship and parlay the Living the Dream package into a professional bass fishing career—and he hopes to do likewise with his shot at the FLW Tour.
As icing on the cake, Wilson was rewarded with a brand-new Ranger Z-518 for being the event’s top Ranger Cup-qualified boater.
On the co-angler side of the event, Missouri’s Ray Blash won the Co-AnglerNational Champions Title with 10 bass for a 27-pound, 12-ounce total. Blash sacked 6 pounds, 11 ounces on day one, boated the field’s heaviest basket on day two with a 16-pound, 3-ounce limit, and finished with 4 pounds, 14 ounces on day three. The recently retired 22 year veteran of the US Army, distanced himself from the rest of the co-angler field on the second day of the event when he weighed in a 16-03 bag from the back of the boat which was the second biggest of the entire event.
Blash received a $30,000 “Living the Dream” prize package with increased payout and fully paid entry fees into the FLW Series division of his choice. Vermont’s Scott McKay earned a $5,000 cash award for being the highest-placing Ranger Cup qualified co-angler.
After day three, top boaters (listed with total catch) are:
Top co-anglers are:
Overall, boaters and co-anglers brought in 31 bass weighing 85 pounds, 8 ounces today. Just three of the 14 finalists landed limits.
Coverage of the TBF National Championship was streamed live daily on bassfederation.com and will be broadcast nationally in high-definition on “Federation Angler,” which airs on the Pursuit Channel.
The Bass Federation is a proud partner in fishing with FLW, which helps support this annual event along with other industry-leading TBF sponsors including Ranger Boats, Evinrude, Cabela’s, Humminbird, Minn Kota, Berkley, Lowrance, T-H Marine and Power Pole.
For full results and payout info check out the tournament results page.
LIVE coverage all three days of the 2018 TBF National Championship from Flippin, AR and Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock. LIVE weigh ins begins daily April 12,13,14 at 3:00pm CT right here on bassfederation.com
For the FULL DAY 1 & Day 2 * Day 3 results Overall and By Division check out the tournament results page HERE
FINAL Day weigh-in
Day 2 weigh-in
Day 1 Weigh in
Nelson, Wilson Tie it Up on Both Days to Seize the Lead; Co-Angler, Ray Blash, Brings in Biggest Bag
B J Nelson and Austin Wilson both brought five bass limits to the scales yesterday weighing 14 lbs 2 ounces, and for one wild turn of fate, followed it up with 13 lbs 9 ounces today to lead it with 27 lbs 11 ounces. The field is tight, however, and with the weather roller coaster this week, the final day can and will bring anything. One thing is undeniable; the 2018 Federation National Champions will be crowned tomorrow on Lake Bull Shoals and they will certainly earn it.
Nelson, is from Kentucky and represents the Southern Division. He made a trip to pre-fish with his Dad just after Thanksgiving and his honey hole is the same place they found, which is obviously still producing.
“The way it lays, I was thinking of spring time and where the fish would be in the Spring, and it happened to be that type of area,” Nelson said. “I had four this morning by 8am and caught 12 keepers both days. I tried to leave outta there a little early each day and just let it rest.”
This is Nelson’s first time competing at the national championship but he’s fished on and off with TBF since he was 16. He’s also fished other high profile events and recently won a boat. Tomorrow, he’ll be looking to keep the fire alive.
Wilson is also making his national championship debut and is representing California and the Southwest Division. He started fishing TBF two years ago inspired by the success story of Federation National Champion and California angler turned FLW Tour Pro, Mark Daniels, Jr. He also mentioned how TBF has such affordable entry fees.
From a low cost tournament TBF has definitely produced. He’s got one more day to reap all the benefits and secure the $120,000 “Living the Dream” package.
“It’s tied and tomorrow is a different day,” Wilson said. “I’m shooting for a limit but we have a pretty big cold snap coming in and I don’t know what it’s going to do to the fish I’ve been catching.
Anything can happen. I can go out and I can blank, that’s fishing. Hopefully, I’m going to go out and catch five; if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be and I’ll end up on top.
Co-angler, Ray Blash, from Missouri and the Central Division brought in the biggest bag of the day with 16 lbs 3 ounces. Blash had a two day total of 22 lbs 14 ounces to seize the co-angler lead, advance to finals and punch his ticket to the 2018 BFL All-American.
Although he’s fished with the Missouri TBF since 2014, he’s not local to this lake having only visited the Arkansas side of Lake Bull Shoals a couple times. He’s also a retired Army Veteran who retired in 2011 after nearly 23 years of service.
He thanked his boat captains on stage and again during the interview but when asked what he was doing different out there he said he’ll keep that a secret until tomorrow.
“I just want to give a shout out to my wife and kids and also, the guys that I worked with on Fort Leonard Wood.”
Tomorrow will decide it all as the 2018 Federation National Championship wraps up on Lake Bull Shoals in Flippin and Bull Shoals, Arkansas.
TOP 7 BOATERS – TOURNAMENT TOTALS
BJ NELSON – KY – SOUTHERN – 5 FISH – 27LBS 11OZ
AUSTIN WILSON – CA – SOUTHWEST – 5 FISH – 27LBS 11OZ
NICK DEERING – ME – EASTERN – 5 FISH – 26LBS 3OZ
PAT UPTHAGROVE – MI – NORTHERN – 5 FISH – 24LBS 26OZ
MIKE WEBSTER – AR – CENTRAL -5 FISH – 22LBS 14OZ
TOP 7 CO-ANGLERS – TOURNAMENT TOTALS
RAY BLASH – MO – CENTRAL – 5 FISH – 22LBS 14OZ
HERNANDEZ RUFFIN – WA – NORTHWEST – 5 FISH – 16LBS 3OZ
JESSE PARKS – AZ – SOUTHWEST – 1 FISH – 13LBS 15OZ
ADAM WALL – DE – MID-ATLANTIC – 0 FISH – 10LBS
CHRIS FRANCO – TN – SOUTHERN – 2 FISH – 7LBS 14OZ
DAVE BERG – MN – NORTHERN – 3 FISH – 7LBS 13OZ
SCOTT MCKAY – VT – EASTERN – 1 FISH – 5LBS OZ