Helen E. McKinney
CARROLLTON, Ky. (Sept. 2003) The Bassmasters Classic
is the pinnacle of bass tournament fishing. Local angler Christian Romans
refers to it as the Super Bowl of bass fishing.
Having fished in tournaments since age 13, Romans still enters many open tournaments with his father, John. From early spring until the late fall waters start to chill, he can be found in a boat doing what he loves best. He has baited waters in New York, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, Florida, North Carolina and Texas.
Like many tournaments, the KBF tournament works on a tiered level. The top 24 fishermen advance from each of the four regional qualifying tournaments to the state championship tournament, where the top 12 will comprise the state team. Winners advance to the B.A.S.S. Southern Divisional.
States in the Southern Divisional include Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North and South Carolina, and Tennessee. The top contestants from each state will advance to the nationals.
John Shelburne, 46, an Oldham County fisherman, placed ninth in this KBF regional qualifying tournament. The state championship tournament will be held in Paducah in October. This is one of many circuits out there, he said.
The object of such a tournament is to qualify for the state team, Shelburne said. His credo is that over a period of time, you learn it and get better at it.
Bickers said the KBF qualifier is a big economic draw for Carrollton. Carrollton-Carroll County Tourism and Convention Commission Director Robin Caldwell agreed by saying that the tournament brought in a tremendous amount of revenue through overnight rooms, food and beverage, shopping and gasoline.
The KBF has its own insurance, policies and procedures and trailers. They have a standard checklist before they even think about coming to town. They are very well organized, said Caldwell.
Carrollton is a great area for fishing, said Bonnie Wheeler, manager of the Holiday Inn Express, Days Inn and Super 8 motels in Carrollton. She said the event directors maintain a close contact with her to ensure that everything runs smoothly. It makes a big difference when you have community cooperation.
Glaubers Sporting Goods has extended evening hours and brought in seminars and demonstrations on new products in the past for fishing tournaments held in Carrollton, said Caldwell. Such support is what makes these events a success.
There is no shortage of local anglers who participate in regional and national tournaments. Donnie Tomlinson, a Bedford, Ky., resident, has won two previous qualifying tournaments and has entered many local tournaments.
Tomlinson said the draw in the KBF qualifying event was the opportunity to compete against a lot of good anglers from all over the state.
Fishing on the Ohio River is tough, said Romans. He said the river is shallow, and he prefers to use spinner bait and crank baits to cover a lot of water quickly.
Variables such as light, water levels and water clarity are not lost on the fish. A good angler realizes this, and Tomlinson said he tests the waters ahead of time to familiarize himself with the daily pattern of the fish. At different lakes, the fish will behave differently.
Trueblood, 21, labeled himself a shallow water fisherman. He said it is important to look at certain factors in order to locate fish. The time of year and what fish feed on influences the spot he chooses to fish in a tournament.
He plans to join the pro-fishing circuit after graduating from college. He has already become a record setter by becoming the youngest member to participate on the Kentucky state team. Like Tomlinson, Trueblood enjoys the competitiveness of the tournaments. He said a good way to get started in tournament fishing is by joining a local bass club and working your way up.
Trueblood has his sights set on one day winning the Bassmasters Classic. To have come this far at so young of an age, he credits one of his fathers friends as his a mentor.
Trueblood said Wes Thomas of Hanover has guided him in the right direction. By observing Thomas, Trueblood has learned what it takes to fish against high-caliber professional anglers.
Thomas said he fishes as much locally as he can, recently competing in the Hoosier Open Team Tournament. In addition to preparing his equipment, Thomas adjusts his mentality to believe that upon entering a tournament, I have a legitimate chance to win.
Thomas began tournament fishing in the late 1970s, and one aspect he enjoys is the chance to make a lot of friends through the different avenues of fishing. He travels a lot on the touring circuit, supported by his major sponsor, Fuji Film.
At the national level, there is a lot more involvement with sponsors than just catching fish, he said.
Trueblood said he often works boat shows to promote his sponsors. Thomas said that much of the money raised from fishing tournaments is turned over to charity events. He recently placed 14th in the Forest L. Wood (FLW) qualifying tournament. The national level of this tournament offers a chance at $500,000 on Sept. 10-13 on the James River in Richmond, Va.
To be successful on the pro-circuit in this sport, Shelburne said that time and money are the main fundamentals. He concedes that it is the dream of every serious angler to make the circuit, but in order to do so, you have to have sponsors.
In the sport of fishing, there is a missing niche that needs to be filled, said Thomas. Many major sponsors want women anglers to become involved with the tournament circuit. There are no boundaries for women, he said.