Note: In 2004, ESPN/BASS agreed to take over the Junior Bassmaster National Championship tournament, which was developed and
previously sponsored by the Bryan V. Kerchal Memorial Fund. The National
Championship tournament became the Junior Bassmaster World Championship
tournament. This development has provided greater exposure and awareness
of the importance of youth fishing programs. The 2006 tournament was
held in February for the first time to match the new schedule of the
Bassmaster Classic, previously held in late July or early August.
HIBDON and KELLY WIN 2006 JUNIOR BASSMASTER CHAMPIONSHIP
Both Receive $5,000 Scholarship, Triton Boat with
LEESBURG, Fla. – In exactly one week, the 36th CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion will be named. But on Sunday, it was the younger generation’s turn to shine as 90 of the most promising young anglers took the stage at the Junior Bassmaster World Championship, held in conjunction with Bassmaster Family Fest. The activities kicked off the week-long celebration surrounding CITGO Bassmaster Classic.
Junior anglers in two age groups, 11-14 and 15-18, were paired with a Classic competitor Saturday and Sunday. They launched from Venetian Gardens and fished the Harris Chain of Lakes. Nick Kelly, 17, of Brownsville, Tenn., and Payden Hibdon, 14, of Stover, Mo., each won their in their age group.
Kelly fished with Classic qualifier and CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series pro Tommy Biffle, who helped the young angler bring in an impressive limit of 12 pounds, outweighing his competition by 1 pound, 10 ounces. A 2003 Junior Bassmaster World champion, Kelly is no stranger to winning. This year marked his third trip to the Junior Bassmaster World Championship and his sights are already set on next year’s competition.
“This tournament has gotten bigger and bigger every year,” said Kelly. Currently a senior in high school, he plans to pursue a degree in marketing at the University of Tennessee at Martin and hopes to turn pro with BASS.
“I want to go to college first to learn how to market myself and work well with sponsors, and then I’ll start my career in professional fishing,” he said.
Kelly targeted isolated clumps of grass using a Strike King chartreuse-and-black spinnerbait and a plastic worm. “I was thinking I would make the top five, but never thought I would win,” he said.
Hibdon, son of 1997 CITGO Bassmaster Classic winner Dion Hibdon and grandson of 1988 Classic winner Guido Hibdon, is quickly following in their footsteps. Hibdon brought a five-fish limit of 9 pounds, 5 ounces to the scales, edging Zach Alexander of Salt Lake City, Utah, by just 1 ounce.
“This is awesome!” said Hibdon, who was coached by Classic qualifier and Elite Series angler Kevin Wirth. “It was good fishing with Kevin and I learned quite a bit.”
Hibdon scored his limit by sight fishing the bedding largemouth using spinnerbaits and worms.
“Word can’t express how I feel right now,” said Dion Hibdon, who watched from the crowd. “He’s a very deserving kid and I knew he wouldn’t let the excitement get to him. I’m very proud.”
Kelly and Hibdon each received a $5,000 scholarship; a Triton boat with a Mercury motor valued at $8,000; and a Walt Disney World experience. BASS awarded $27,000 total in scholarships and prizes to Junior Bassmaster competitors.
Meanwhile, Christopher Baksay of Monroe, Conn., earned Purolator Big Bass honors in the 11-14 age division with a 4-11 largemouth and 16-year-old Matthew Lambert of Oceana, W. Va. was second place and took Big Bass honors with a 5-1 largemouth in the 15-18 age division.
Rounding out the top five in the 15-18 age group were James “Riley” Anthony of Meridian, Idaho, (9-3); Martinus Van Aswegen of Sasolburg, South Africa (9-3); and E J King of Aztec, N.M. (8-6).
In the 11-14 age group, Alexander of Utah took second (9-4), Christopher Baksay was third (8-0), Illinois’ Tyler McCune took fourth (5-6) and West Virginia’s Nick Lambert placed fifth (5-3).
Along with the Junior Bassmaster World Championship, families and bass fishing enthusiasts took part in Bassmaster Family Fest on Sunday, an all-day festival that featured a fishing derby, CastingKids display, face painting, moon bounces, a giant slide, concessions and more.
Kids received hats, t-shirts, a Zebco rod and reel, coupon for a free Hardee’s hamburger and a full Federation Nation-sponsored BASS youth membership, including two issues of Jr. Bassmaster magazine, and entry into the Master Angler Program.
BASS distributed 1,500 Zebco rods and reels to fishing derby participants, local Leesburg schools, Florida State University and Federation Nation clubs and state Federation chapters supporting local charities.
Local sponsors of both the Bassmaster Junior World Championship and
Bassmaster Family Fest were the City of Leesburg, Lake County Water
Authority and Lake County Economic and Developmental Tourism Department.
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