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B.A.S.S. Reporter’s Notebook
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B.A.S.S. Reporter’s Notebook: Let the All-Star voting begin; Salute to a survivor; The very determined Randy Howell; KVD’s catfish award; For the United Way; Said at the June 16-19 Dixie Duel 

Let the All-Star voting begin:

J. Todd Tucker didn’t miss a beat. He launched his campaign the day before fans were invited to begin voting June 21 at to select the final four anglers for Toyota Trucks All-Star Week.


“Voting started at midnight, so we got people interested a few hours before,” said the Bassmaster Elite Series angler from Moultrie, Ga.


His strategy included sending a broadcast email to 3,000 people on June 20 at about 7 p.m. And he’s hitting social media, every sponsor website — in fact every channel his team can think of. The pass-on multiplies the number of people reached.


“I’d say that by the end of the night, we hit 25,000 people. And we’re going to hit them again every day,” he said.


Tucker is only one of many Elite pros actively asking for the vote. Hot campaigning is expected over the next 20 days, until the polls close July 10.


The four winners will join the eight who already qualified for the July 23-31 postseason event in Alabama. The $100,000 competition will happen on Lake Jordan out of Wetumpka, Ala., for two days, then move on for a final three days on the Alabama River out of nearby Montgomery.


Each voter can cast a ballot once a day. The ballot consists of four choices, one Elite pro per geographical region.


Fans have been given a big incentive to vote often because each ballot cast is also an entry into the Toyota Trucks All-Star Week Fan Favorites Sweepstakes. Once all votes are cast, 12 voters will be randomly selected and paired with the 12 anglers. The fan who is paired with the eventual All-Star champion will win the grand prize of a Triton/Mercury bass boat rig valued at more than $30,000. All 12 sweepstakes finalists will win Berkley tackle packs.


Tucker said the All-Star election is more than a popularity contest for him or any other Elite pro.


“It’s an opportunity to build the fan base of our sport, to get the fans more involved,” he said. “For me, that’s the bottom line.”


At least one of Tucker’s fellow Elite pros is tying his campaign into his support for a charity. John Crews of Salem, Va., sent a June 21 email with the subject line of “My Pledge.”


“My pledge is that if I am voted into the All-Star Week and win, I will donate $25,000 to the Tackle the Storm Foundation. In addition, if I am voted in … I will also donate $5 per pound of bass that I weigh during the competition. In other words, if I get in All-Star Week, the kids will benefit,” his email stated.


The objective of Tackle the Storm is to replace kids’ fishing equipment lost in the April 27 bout of tornadoes that socked the South.


Crews and Tucker are just two of the 91 Elite pros eligible to win a postseason entry via fan voting. The four voted in will join the eight who qualified by being the top points earners in the regular season.


The list is led by Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., who won his seventh Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year points competition last Sunday. The other postseason qualifiers are Edwin Evers of Talala, Okla., points runner-up; Gerald Swindle of Warrior, Ala.; Ott DeFoe of Knoxville, Tenn., who last Sunday won the 2011 Bassmaster Rookie of the Year title; Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala.; Terry Scroggins of San Mateo, Fla.; Casey Ashley of Donalds, S.C.; and — last in at the No. 8 spot — Davy Hite of Ninety Six, S.C.


The remaining four as selected by fans will be announced by July 13. The 12 randomly selected fans and their virtual pairings with pros will be announced before the postseason begins.


Salute to a survivor: On stage last Saturday during the Bassmaster Elite Series event in Decatur, Ala., not far from his home, Tim Horton was so moved he stopped speaking.


Not so much because he’d made the top-12 cut to compete the final day, an accomplishment that meant a 2012 Bassmaster Classic berth was close at hand. And not so much that he’d pulled that off in his home state, not far from where he lives in Muscle Shoals. For all those reasons, he was joyous.


Words left him as he saluted a man in the audience, a survivor of the killer tornado that ripped Alabama on April 27. Larry Plott, Horton’s uncle who had served Franklin County as its sheriff for 28 years, lost his home to the April 27 tornado that flattened the small town of Phil Campbell.


“Only the foundation of his home was left,” Horton described.


“Early on, the focus, of course, was to get the basics back — living quarters, food, clothing,” Horton said. “Then I was talking to my mom last night, and she mentioned he felt he was ready to go fishing again, but didn’t have any tackle.”


Through his mother, Horton knew his uncle would be in the audience on Saturday.


On stage Horton told the story of how one man who gave so much lost so much, but kept going, and kept alive his love of fishing. Then Horton asked his uncle to stand, and the crowd cheered.


After he left the stage, Horton immediately ran back to his boat, collected five of his Duckett Fishing brand rods and reels, and gave them to Plott. Horton said he’d follow up with lures and other equipment.


The very determined Randy Howell: Powered only by his trolling motor, Randy Howell piloted his boat on windy Wheeler Lake for four miles to reach the support crew that could repair his boat’s gearing.


It was the second day of the tournament, the Bassmaster Elite Series season closer. Howell needed to turn in a good performance on Wheeler or risk falling out of the cut for a 2012 Bassmaster Classic qualification. The first day he had brought only 7 1/2 pounds to the scales. The second day he had about 14 pounds in the livewell when the gearing acted up. A storm was brewing.


He wasn’t going to let anything stop him. He pushed on, and didn’t stop casting during his four-mile trek back to the ramp. He landed a 3 1/2-pounder, and spotted a place that later yielded an even bigger bass.


“As I was going by on the trolling motor, I saw a place that looked good, and I had a gut feeling to go fish it,” he said. “I got back in, got fixed up really fast, and got back out there and caught a 5 1/2-pounder,” he said.


His day’s bag weighed in at 18-7. That put him in 16th place, up from 87th, with 25-15 over two days.


“Everything worked out,” he said.


Wheeler Lake has been good to Howell many times, and was in fact the site of his first major win in 1998.


“I won $100,000. It was my first big break into the sport,” he said. “I was 23 years old, moved from North Carolina to Alabama, and was just getting serious and focused on a career in fishing. This lake’s been good to me.”


KVD’s catfish award: Even before the Bassmaster Elite Series season finale began last week, Kevin VanDam garnered an award.


Presented by the mayor of host city Decatur, Ala., Don Stanford, the paper certificate was titled: “1st Annual KVD Pre-Fish Award for Largest Catfish.”


VanDam had boated a behemoth catfish on Wheeler Lake during practice. Pundit weight estimates on the cat ranged from an optimistic 90 to a more likely 45 pounds — still plenty of fish to heave over the gunnels.


For the United Way: The Decatur-Morgan County Convention Visitors Bureau presented T-shirts to all 99 Bassmaster Elite Series anglers last week on the eve of the Dixie Duel. Each shirt represented a donation in the angler’s name to the United Way to aid victims of the April 27 tornado.


Printed on the tees was “Family Jam 2011.” United Way workers collected donations June 18-19 at the music fest happening at Ingalls Harbor in Decatur while anglers competed on the water.


Said at the June 16-19 Dixie Duel:

“This is a lake that fits my style.” — Kevin VanDam after the first day. He finished in second place in the tournament with 61 pounds, 13 ounces, and walked off with his fourth consecutive Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title.


“It is what it is. I have to go back and evaluate to see what I can change for next season.” — Gary Klein, after a lackluster season. Ending at 59th in points, he missed out on a 30th Bassmaster Classic qualification.


“I didn’t want to get DQ’d for getting my phone out.” — Ish Monroe, explaining why he didn’t take a photo of two noodlers who pulled up near him and proceeded to extract, barehanded, huge catfish from underwater holes.


“Mathematically, I could do it, but it’s not looking good.” — Steve Kennedy on his chances of catching Kevin VanDam in the points race in the last hours of competition


“Rookie of the Year is a major accomplishment for me.” — Ott DeFoe


“This is the best Father’s Day I’ve ever had, I promise you that.” — David Walker, who in landing the Dixie Duel trophy scored his first win in a major event, and earned his way back to the Bassmaster Classic


About B.A.S.S.

For more than 40 years, B.A.S.S. has served as the authority on bass fishing. The organization advances the sport through advocacy, outreach and an expansive tournament structure while connecting directly with the passionate community of bass anglers through its Bassmaster media vehicles.


The Bassmaster brand and its multimedia platforms are guided by a mission to serve all fishing fans. Through its industry-leading publications — Bassmaster Magazine and B.A.S.S. Times — comprehensive website, ESPN2 and Outdoor Channel television programming, Bassmaster provides rich, leading-edge content true to the lifestyle.


The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open Series, B.A.S.S. Federation Nation events presented by Yamaha and Skeeter Boats and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the Bassmaster Classic.


B.A.S.S. offers an array of services to its more than 500,000 members and remains focused on issues related to conservation and water access. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.

Thursday 23 June 2011 - 14:27:23

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