BUCKEYE STATE WINS JUNIOR INVITATIONAL TOURNAMENT
WALDORF, Md. - The Bassmaster Junior Chapter Invitational turned into a runaway win for the Ohio B.A.S.S. Federation with the overall title and team trophy going back to the Buckeye State. The tournament, now in its fourth year, was held on the Potomac River.
Luke Rahrig won the title with an impressive one-day catch weighing 15 pounds, adding to his team's overall winning total of 60 pounds, 2 ounces. Joining Rahrig on the winning team were Jonathan Smitley, Josh Denney, Marcus Miller, Jason Widmer and Adam Clever.
Overall runner-up was New York's Tony Dorman with 14 pounds, 6 ounces, followed by Nathan Jackson of Delaware with 12 pounds, 14 ounces. Rounding out the top five was Maryland's Kyle Crew, a former BASSMASTER CastingKids national finalist, who caught 12 pounds, 2 ounces, and Shelby Bowling with 12 pounds.
Bowling, a member of the Maryland team, volunteered to fish for Canada after it fell short of filling its six-angler roster. Her spirit is typical of the quality sportsmanship that has become a fixture of this budding tournament. In an impromptu ceremony held at the pizza party on the eve of the competition, Bowling was made an "honorary" Canadian citizen and received a shirt, flag, and team gear bearing the country's red maple leaf motif.
This marked the fourth year of a tournament that has seen steady growth and interest since it was first held in 1996 on the Potomac River. Competing this year were junior federation teams from Ohio, Maryland, New York, Delaware, Connecticut, Vermont and Ontario. In all, 42 youths ages 11 through 16 fished in the tournament hosted by the Maryland Federation. Key sponsors included the Bryan V. Kerchal Memorial Fund and BIG Kmart, which provided a $500 U.S. Savings Bond to Rahrig for his winning effort.
This tournament mirrors the format of the B.A.S.S. Federation Divisional championship format. Like their adult counterparts, these youths must belong to a federation youth chapter that is affiliated with an adult club. In order to qualify for the junior invitational, contestants must have performed well enough on their state team to make the cut. And that does not just mean fishing better than the rest. In some states, like Maryland, it means to have also completed a specified number of hours in civic or conservation programs.
Like the adults, the youth teams come color-coordinated with team outfits and gear, all of it funded by the Kerchal fund. What is more, additional support for the prizes was provided by BIG Kmart. The tournament even had it's own celebrity emcee, Arkansas B.A.S.S. pro Mike Wurm, who attended the event on behalf of his sponsor, Ranger Boats.
The tournament is operated using the B.A.S.S. Federation rule book. It begins with a Friday evening briefing, banquet and seminar hosted by adult federation members. This year, it was a pizza party held at the La Plata United Methodist Church and a seminar conducted by the Maryland federation's Ken Penrod. The competition follows on Saturday with adult "team captains" operating their boats for the contestants. The weighin is followed by an awards ceremony and banquet.
This tournament is a "win-win" concept for its participants and the federation, says Maryland's award winning youth director Debbie Muth. "This is an eye-opener to these kids and the future of the federation. It gives them a goal, something to work for, and then instills the values of good sportsmanship and competitiveness that are found at the adult's divisional level."
She continued, "This tournament, and the federation's junior chapter arm, each bridge the age gap between CastingKids and the adult federation. It is the next step in getting them involved in the federation. It prepares them not only for the membership, but gives them a taste of knowing how things work at the divisional level."
Adds Butch Ward, president of the Maryland B.A.S.S. Federation and the
event's tournament director, "We'd like to eventually see this grow
nationwide, and ultimately have B.A.S.S. take it over and sanction it,
like the divisionals. The interest is definitely there, and I think some
of the national sponsors are getting a wake-up call. This is a big part of
the future of the federation and even the Wrangler Angler program."