Torre de Moncorvo, Portugal October 18, 2023
Six American tour-level anglers who’ve combined to compile a long list of accolades are in Portugal this week in a quest to defend the U.S. team’s title in the 17th edition of the Black Bass World Championship. The competition at Lake Sabor runs Thursday through Saturday.
Scott Martin captains the U.S. squad and will partner with Scott Canterbury in the pairs-based format. Jacob Wheeler, the world’s top-ranked angler for the past four years, will share a boat with Dustin Connell and Hall-of-Famer David Fritts will fish with Fred Roumbanis.
They’ll compete against teams from the host nation, along with Mexico, Canada, South Africa, Puerto Rico, Germany, Croatia, France, Italy, Romania, Serbia, Spain and Zimbabwe. No prize money is at stake – only medals for the top nations and pairs.
The U.S. contingent had two practice days on Lake Sabor before it went off-limits Monday. The venue is a 7,000-acre highland reservoir that Martin says is reminiscent of Table Rock Lake in Missouri or Lake Travis in Texas. It’s home to many finned species, but the black bass population consists of largemouth exclusively.
“It’s very clear and it’s chock-full of fish,” he said. “It’s real deep and it gets deep immediately – as soon as you’re off the shoreline you’re in 50 or 60 feet of water. There’s a lot of fish grouped up in certain places and the same approach you’d take to similar types of lakes (in the U.S.) seems to work.”
Martin said the biggest five fish that he and Canterbury caught on their first practice day would’ve combined to weigh just 7 or 8 pounds, but their stringer would’ve been well over double that on the second day.
“We’ve seen a couple of 5-pounders so far,” he said. “The lake has a lot of fish in it, but a lot of them are 12- to 14-inchers. A bag over 20 pounds is possible – you just have to figure out how to get the bigger ones to react.”
Martin participated in a previous edition of the event in South Africa and said the lake didn’t fish at all like most U.S. venues.
“There really wasn’t any shad or baitfish there, so the bass didn’t react the same way. You’d throw something that imitated a baitfish and they wouldn’t pay any attention to it. It won’t be like that for this one.”
Competitors from outside the European continent will fish from loaner boats. Martin said he and Canterbury will be in a 17-foot Nitro outfitted with top-of-the-line electronics, including forward-facing sonar.
“The boats are smaller here – a 17-footer is a big one,” he said. “There’s a reason for that; it’s because all their roads are narrower. If you had a 21-foot boat, you couldn’t drive it through these towns in Portugal without getting stuck. The guys from Germany and Spain have bigger boats.”
The rosters of the other nations don’t include any Elite Series or Bass Pro Tour competitors, but Martin said that most are nonetheless high-level anglers.
“They’re all serious bass fishermen,” he said. “As far as the competition goes, I like our chances of winning – I’m very comfortable with the way the whole thing sets up. But still, we’re going to have to bring our ‘A’ game.
“If you can get the bigger ones to bite, you can catch them really well. If you can’t, then you’re going to have 7 pounds.”
o see the online program for the event. here
For the rules of competition. here
Daily results will be posted. here
To visit the USA Bass home page. here
Portugal Facebook event page. here