Going into the Atlanta stop this river format was a complete unknown, but the tournament staff came out of the event knowing that they have a format that, with a little tweaking, will be even better and here to stay. The event officially began on Friday when anglers started to arrive at the Bass Pro Shops around 5:00pm to hang out and check out the prizes and sponsors tables that had been set up in the parking lot at the front of the store all day. All of the kayak prizes and the $15,000 grand prize outdoor support vehicle from True North received a lot of attention and curiosity from participants and Bass Pro customers alike.
The True North OSV will always mark the “hangout area” for each stop on the trail, where tents and tables are set up for the high level sponsors displaying their products, that also happen to be the prizes for the trail. The sponsors that had a separate table/area were True North, Jackson Kayak, NuCanoe, Kokatat and the Bass Pro Ascend Kayaks. Additional sponsors were represented on one “sponsors table” and banners were hung to represent the ALS Association, in which the tournament aims to benefit in honor of Phillip Mays. The hang out area had camp chairs and picnic tables and almost had the feeling of a tailgate or a camp site as fishing stories were shared and strategies were discussed, albeit quietly by some anglers.
At 7pm the contestants entered the Bass Pro Shops conference room where the pre-tournament rules meeting was held and the measuring devices and special icon were handed out. This tournament’s special icon was a knife/bottle opener key chain donated by newcomer in the kayak fishing world, Jackson Kayak. Anglers also received their early entry prize packages which ranged in value from $50-$80 and had products donated by the following brands – Backwater Paddles, Ice Mule, Tru-Tungsten, Kayak Angler Magazine, Cablz, The Gorilla Glue Co., and RiverBassin.com
The following day the hang out area was again set up around 11am and tournament organizers, fans and early arrivals began the tailgating atmosphere, while also helping out any passerbys who had questions about the trail or any of the products on display from the sponsors. Most of the anglers began to arrive around 3:30, with a few cutting it close and checking in as late as 4:29pm, just ahead of their 4:30pm deadline. While a few anglers went off to take a polygraph test the rest hung out at the campsite area, swapped stories and had some food and cool drinks on a warm Georgia evening. The tournament organizers were inside working on the “results show” presentation. While it did take a little longer to put together this first time, the results show finally got underway a little after 6:30pm.
|Backwater Paddles Young River Bassers||Inches|
|1. Graham Rodgers||38|
|2. Ryan Meredith||9.75|
The show began with the Backwater Paddles Young River Bassers Division where 15 year old Graham Rodgers, from Sugarhill, GA, beat out 6 year old Ryan Meredith. Graham caught a limit (3 fish) that measured 38 inches. Ryan did score one redeye bass that measured 9.5 inches. The show on stage was quite a scene as Graham is already over 6 feet tall and 6 year old Ryan is about half that size. It may be a mismatch now but if Ryan is already catching river bass at his young age, and has another 10 years to be in the young river bassers division, he’ll surely see the top spot at a future tour stop.
Graham walked away with a Bass Pro Shops Ascend Kayak, gift cards to Bass Pro Shops, a guided trip with professional kayak angler and tournament director/creator Drew Gregory and a River Bassin Trail T-shirt. Ryan was also a big winner and received a PFD from Kokatat as well as $100 gift card to Bass Pro Shops and a RiverBassin.com t-shirt. Graham also won the NuCanoe Big Fish award with a 13.25 inch largemouth bass, which allowed him to take home a $50 Bass Pro Shops gift card.
|Kokatat Casual Anglers||Inches|
|1. Randy Meredith||41.5|
|2. Gilbert Montano||33.75|
|3. David Strassburg||32|
The Kokatat Casual Angler Division was the next to be scored. Randy Meredith, from Marietta, GA, took the win with three fish that went 41.5 inches, while Gilbert Montano and David Strassburg, both from Warner Robbins, GA, finished with 3.75 and 32 inches respectively. Nicholasville Kentucky angler Tim Emberton took the NuCanoe big fish honors with his 19.75 largemouth bass that would have also qualified for the ugliest fish award if there was such a thing.
Tim walked away with an Ice Mule cooler and lures from Spro Lures. For winning the Kokata Casual Angler Division Randy took home a fully rigged Ascend Kayak from Bass Pro Shops as well as a $150 gift card to Bass Pro Shops, lures from Tru-Tungsten and a RiverBassin.com shirt. Gilbert won a kayak paddle as well as the lures from Tru-Tungsten and a tournament trail t-shirt. David also received lures from Tru-Tungsten, a Backwater Hand Paddle and a shirt.
The anticipation built as it was now time to announce the winners of the Jackson Kayak Avid Angler Division. The slide show presentation was laid out as to where each fish was shown one at a time and anglers were re-ordered according to where the latest fish put them in the standings. By the time the last fish was to be scored Hal Lambert, from Conway, SC, had put himself in very good position to win with his first two shoal bass totaling 39.75 inches. Sean Brodie, of Milledgeville, GA, was first to measure in final bass (17.75 inch shoal bass) that gave him a total of 48 inches. Next up was Jon Freeman, who resides in Mcdonough, GA, who brought in a whopping 20-inch shoal bass, giving him a 3 fish total of 50.5 inches. All Hal Lambert needed was 10.75 inches to take the very first River Bassin Tournament. His final fish was a shoal bass that was nearly double that length measuring in at 20.75 inches, and it gave him a 3 fish total of 60.50! Hal said that he caught most of his fish on a Spro BBZ swimbait in the calmer water in the shoals.
|Jackson Kayak Avid Anglers||Inches|
|1. Hal Lambert||60.5|
|2, Jon Freeman||50.5|
|3. Sean Brodie||48|
|4. Lance Coley||45.25|
|5. Glenn Anderson||45|
|6. Josh Tidwell||44.75|
|7. Brian Conway||43|
|8. Blake Condo||39.25|
|9. David Rodrigue||22|
|All other anglers blanked|
Hal was pumped because being the champion meant he was able to take home a brand new Jackson Kayak Day Tripper 12, a $100 Bass Pro Shops gift card, lures from Tru-Tungsten and a RiverBassin.com shirt. It was only fitting that Hal win the Jackson Kayak because it happens to be the exact same boat he won the tournament in. I guess he doesn’t have an excuse not to take his wife with him now. Hal also took home the NuCanoe big fish honors for his final 20.75 inch shoal bass. For that he was awarded 1 free oil change from Jiffy Lube, some Spro Lures, a Backwater Hand Paddle and a Ice Mule Cooler. The good news for Hal doesn’t end there as he also takes the lead in the True North River Basser of the Year (RBOY) race with 110 points (100 for 1st and 10 for big fish).
The winner of the RBOY race will receive the fully rigged $15,000 outdoor support vehicle (camper) from True North that travels with the trail to all stops. Second place for the RBOY will get an all expenses paid peacock bass fishing trip to the Amazon ($4000) courtesy of Amazon Expeditions. Third place for the RBOY will receive a brand new 12 foot NuCanoe. To view the RBOY standings click here.
Although Jon placed second it is almost like he won because he loaded up a brand new NuCanoe and took it home with a big smile on his face. Jon also received lures from Tru-Tungsten and a tournament trail t-shirt. Jon also will get 90 points towards the True North River Basser of the year award.
Sean may have placed 3rd but still took home some nice stuff as well, headed by a new Kokatat PFD valued at $120.00. He also was awarded lures from Tru-Tungsten, a $50 Bass Pro Shops gift card and a tournament t-shirt. 3rd place puts him at 80 points towards the RBOY award and in good position to make a run at the True North OSV.
All in all the first stop was a success and a big thanks needs to go out to the staff at the Atlanta Bass Pro Shops, specifically Operations Manager Tommy Wilkinson, for helping us get this all set up and being such a flexible host during this trial run. Thanks again to all sponsors, partners and hosts. See you in Tennessee on May 22nd!