Jim Noah   

Tennessee’s Mike Holt has achieved what no other amateur bass angler has claimed in winning the BC Powder/B.A.S.S. Federation Championship held on the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. The three-day amateur championship tournament wrapped up Saturday April 28, 2001. Mike also won the 1993 tournament held on the Arkansas River, a feat no other amateur has done.

Mike, a 43-year-old telephone company technician from Lexington, Tennessee, caught 13 bass weighing 24 pounds, 4 ounces to claim his second federation national championship. He collected $15,000 for the win plus a matching $15,000 from Mercury Marine, one of the tournament sponsors. He has also qualified for the second time to compete in the BASS Masters Classic set for this summer in New Orleans.

Mike keyed on bass moving into the creeks to spawning in the Miflin Lake area near the I 65 Bridge. Mike spent three days pitching and flipping 3/8 ounce black, blue and purple skirt Spring Buck Jigs with watermelon Zoom critter in cypress trees during low tide. During high tide Mike worked the more active fish with a Bandit Series 200 crankbait with a black back, red sides and orange belly fished on 15-pound test Trilene Big Game line. Mike was able to adjust to the tides quickly and continued to catch fish, while many of the anglers did not. In fact “My most productive times were on the leading edge of the rising tides, because the fish became active moving from deeper water to the cover in the shallow water. Basically what I did was adjust the bait to where the tide was and what cover was ahead” stated Mike in the press conference after the tournament.

Mike proved he is one tough angler when he had no fish in his livewell at noon. He had brought the limit of five bass to the scales both previous days. Mike proved his mental toughness by “I kept telling myself to keep my composure and not give up!” he said. The plan worked. Bass number one came at 12:00, number two at 1 p.m. and the third about 1:30. While he only caught three fish Saturday, that tipped the scales at 4 pounds, 9 ounces. Mike stated “Heavy boat traffic from weekend warriors and another local bass tournament had the shore lines pure mud by 9:00.”

The field of 51 anglers included representatives of 46 states, the province of Ontario plus the national champions from Japan, South Africa, Italy and Zimbabwe. The states and countries are divided into regions that really create five tournaments in one. This format crowns the Federation International Champion and the five geographical divisions winners advancing to the Bassmaster’s Classic. Today the top five Federation Anglers compete with the sport’s top 40 pros to become the worlds greatest bass angler, the Classic Winner!

Mike was the proud winner of the Bryan Kerchal trophy and will represent the Southern Division at the Classic. He is joined by the following anglers representing their respective Federation divisions at Aug. 2-4 at the Classic set for the Louisiana Delta. John Semken (Western), Pete Ponds (Central), Jim Johnson (Northern) and Harry Charcalis (Eastern). Semken was also the overall runner-up with 21 pounds.

Big Bass winners and $500.00 richer complements of BC Powders were Mike Holt with a largemouth weighing 3 pounds, 13 ounces, Trent Loukas, Amarillo, Texas, with a 3-pound, 6-ounce fish and Dan Finkral of Norfolk, Neb., with his 3-pound, 15-ounce.

Jody Lender of Ponca City, OK was the “BC Powder’s Headache of the Tournament” winner and came home $1,000.00 richer. Jody’s stellar performance started when he super glued his lips together while trying to replace the super glue cap he held in his teeth. When Fish Fishburn (Tournament emcee) ask Jody “then what did you do?” Jody responded on stage on Saturday “I just Ripped Lips!” Jody went on to say both he and his non-fishing observer lost their cell phones in the water Saturday as they where moving around to locate bass. With all the problems Jody had, he still managed  to place 11th and less than two pounds short of going to the Classic.

The B.A.S.S. Federation is a grass-roots organization of bass clubs whose members plan, serve, endorse, lobby and support conservation efforts, community service projects and youth programs along with organizing and fishing tournaments. The global network of 51 federations and 2,800 clubs provides the manpower required to make a difference for bass and the water they inhabit. This network provides worldwide anglers to implementation and monitor conservation programs like stocking and pollution control.

Takanori Ogawa from Chiba, Japan had a difficult week, since he only knew “thank you” in American and understood very little if any English. On day two when he was able to catch fish he was thirty minutes late and lost all his weight. Takanori, as many of the anglers did, got lost coming back in practices. B.A.S.S. recognized the issue and obtained hand held GPS units for those that didn’t have their own. Takanori grabbed his TV remote in the dark when rushing to leave the Hotel thinking it was his new GPS unit. His observer said he tried and tried to get the Remote to help him find his way back, but he was late after catching bass. He kept the remote in the boat for “Good Luck” we learned through his interrupted since he caught fish with it. I really think he just didn’t want to forget his GPS unit again. While we had some fun at Takanori’s expense he was a great guest and worked very hard at finding fish and catching them. Tidal waters were new to him too.

This Federation Tournament is the ending of the era established to provide a guaranteed route to the Classic for the top Amateur Angler from each of the Divisions. Many of the State Federation Officers worked hard and long to get the five spots to the Classic for the amateur anglers they represent, only to see it all change. In 2002 the Federation Angler will have to win the Federation Tournament to have a guaranteed spot at the Classic. The other four Divisional Winners and the 2nd place angler form each Division will advance to a new format called the “Classic Shootout”. These nine Amateur Anglers will compete with 77 Pro Anglers for the remaining 23 spots to round out the new Classic format reduced to 40 Anglers.

Forrest Wood, founder of Ranger Boats spoke to the Federation Anglers, Presidents, Conservation Directors and their families on Thursday night, Ranger Night for the last time. While Forrest never put on a hard sell for Ranger, he always made you part of his family and talked of smart grandkids that early on knew the annual seasons were "fishin’ season, hayin’ season, and huntin’ season”, just like all us farm kids in the audience always knew. Gone are the home spun stories that us old timers looked forward to every year. No longer will we be told how great a signed Ranger Banner made a recent heart surgery patient feel. Gone are the genuine stories of pain and suffering and how each one of us in the audience made his, Nina’s, and the whole Ranger Family better. Many of us old timers don’t do change well, just as Forrest said we would. Ranger will no longer be the boat provider for the tournament and Forrest will no longer provide us with a much needed picker upper. Saying “good bye” to a legend is never easy!

Sponsors of the 2001 B.A.S.S. Federation Championship include: Ranger Boats, Rangertrails Trailers, Mercury Outboards, Chevrolet Trucks, Humminbird/Zercom Marine, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, Pennzoil Marine, MotorGuideâ Trolling Motors, Quantum Rods and Reels, GMAC Insurance, Gore-Tex Outerwear, First USA Visa Card, Worldwaters.com, Berkley Trilene, AC Delco, Berkley Powerbait, Eagle Claw Fishhooks, Long John Silver¹s Restaurants, Kumho Tires, Armstrong Industrial Handtools, Mobile Sports Commission, the City of Mobile and the State of Alabama.

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