The 2010 TBF Junior State Championship returned to Kerr Reservoir on May 29th as 31 of Virginia’s top youth anglers competed for the title of state champion.  At the Friday night pre-tournament meeting hosted by the South Hill Hampton Inn, anglers, parents, and boat captains were treated to Dominos pizza as the youth were paired up with their adult boat captains for the big day on Saturday.  After what was probably a restless night with little sleep, the boys’ appetites were once again satisfied as the South Hill Comfort Inn opened their breakfast area bright and early at 4:30 am so all could enjoy a breakfast consisting of fruit, cereal, and hot waffles before heading to the lake.

With all the anglers launched and ready for the challenge, TBF State Chaplain Jimmy Rorrer offered a prayer for all those in attendance, followed by a flag ceremony from “Doc” McGhee as the Star Spangled Banner echoed across the lake.  At 6:42am blast off began and the 16 boats filed by the Rudds Creek ramp one by one with the hopes of full livewells upon their return at 2pm.  As the anglers disappeared into the distance, the staff of volunteers led by Jerry Wright of Southern Virginia Bass Masters began the process of setting the stage for the afternoon’s coming events.  The Yamaha tent was erected with the “hot seats” which would hold the leaders in each age group (11-14, 15-18) during the weigh-in.  Prize bags were filled with lures for each angler and lunches were bagged for everyone as the adults waited in anticipation.

As the boats returned to the ramp for the weigh-in, the boys were called to the scales in order of their blast off position to reveal what Kerr had to offer.  Being first to the scales guarantees you a place in the “hot seat”, but for Zach Francis it turned out to be really hot.  Zach, who drew boat one, came to the scales with an impressive 4 fish limit weighing in at 7.03lbs.  Zach waited patiently (if that’s possible) as all of the 11-14 age group moved across the stage with their day’s catch.  And while the Yamaha tent offered some respite from the sun, it didn’t do much to reduce the “heat”.  However, at the end of the day, Zach weathered all challenges and was crowned TBF Junior State Champion in the 11-14 age group.  Zach reported finding his fish in practice in 10-40 feet of water.  He stuck with his plan on tournament day and made the run to Nutbush Creek which proved to be the right choice.  All of his fish came on a Carolina rig with a 5’’ Senko and Zach was fortunate to land every fish he hooked during the championship.  Zach credits his custom St. Croix rod made by Francis Custom Rods for helping him get all of his fish in the boat.  Second place honors went to James Pond with 3 fish weighing 4.47 lbs.  And rounding out the top 3 in the 11-14 age group was Hunter Eaton who weighed in 3 fish with a total of 3.70lbs.

In the 15-18 age group the competition was stout with several anglers who placed in the top 5 from the 2009 championship returning to this year’s tournament.  Last year Nicholas Bodsford learned just how competitive things can be at the state championship.  In 2009 on the James River, Nicholas was 1/100th of a pound shy of capturing the championship.  To be so close is agonizing, but coming that close is often the spark that drives an angler to work even harder and focus even more than ever before.  It seems that’s just what happened with Nicholas in this year’s tournament.  In practice, Nicholas spent most of his time working rocky points with jigs and a Carolina rig with some success.  So, on the morning of the championship he repeated his plan, but was keen enough to notice a pocket with grass near North Bend that looked promising.  So, he moved into the pocket fishing a Lake Fork Magic Shad and on his second cast caught a 2 ½ lb keeper. Realizing he might be onto something he abandoned his game plan from practice and focused on similar grass areas.  And in doing so he landed about a dozen bass during the tournament, including Big Bass of the day weighing in at 2.99lbs.  This year, Nicholas left nothing to chance as he crossed the scales with a decisive 4 fish bag weighing in at 9.34lbs.  With it, Nicholas captured the TBF Junior State Championship in the 15-18 age group and is headed to Lake Lanier where he’ll compete for a world title.  Skylar Hamilton took second place in the 15-18 age group with an impressive 4 fish limit of 7.97lbs and third place went to Brandon Newberry who also had a solid limit of 4 fish weighing 7.63lbs.

In addition to the individual anglers who captured top honors, the Student Angler Federation State Champion was crowned on May 29th as well.  2010 was the inaugural year for the Student Angler program in Virginia.  This program introduces youth anglers to opportunities through a high school supported program.  The 2009-2010 Student Angler Federation State Championship was awarded to Kentson Forest School in Blackstone Virginia.  Congratulations to the Kenston Forest team.

Congratulations also to all the youth that competed in this year’s event.  It is quite an accomplishment just to qualify and compete at the state level.  Every angler can take something positive from their experience at the state level and use it as they grow in the sport and become better fishermen.  A special congratulations to Nicholas Bodsford and Zach Francis who will be representing Virginia at the 2010 National Guard Junior World Championship to be held on Georgia’s Lake Lanier August 5th -7th.  We wish them both success and hope they each have a great experience in Georgia.

We’d also like to express our thanks to all the sponsors and volunteers who made 2010 another great year for the youth program in Virginia.    A special thanks to the following:  Bass Pro Shops (Richmond), Southern Virginia Bass Masters, R&R Plastics, Mechanicsville Honda, LuLu Lures (Castaways Sporting Goods), Keep’em Cool Livewell Systems, Dominos Pizza of South Hill, Chris and Mr. “T” of South Hill Hampton Inn, Quality Inn, and Comfort Inn, TBF of Virginia for the use of the state trailer, and Region 3, 5, 6, and 10 adult directors.  And last, but certainly not least, a special thanks to all the boats captains who offer their time and talents to give our youth an opportunity to improve as anglers through our tournaments.  Without these volunteers our program could not exist.