- Robert Montgomery
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LUCAS, Ky. -- Sixteen Junior anglers will join their adult counterparts on Barren River Lake today, as they compete to for the right to compete in the Junior Bassmaster World Championship (JWC) later this year.
"There are only seven people between you and the world championship," Stacy Twiggs, B.A.S.S. youth director, told the young anglers following the Day Two weigh-in of the Southern Divisional presented by Yamaha and Skeeter.
That's because each age group, 11-14 and 15-18, has eight anglers representing seven states and South Africa. The winner in each age group will advance to the JWC, along with youngsters from five other divisions.
The Southern Divisional will be the first to qualify Junior anglers for the championship, which Twiggs said will be "in late October or early November" at a site yet to be determined.
"You are the championships of your states, or, in South Africa's case, your country," he continued. "That's not an easy thing to do, especially in the Southern Divisional, where there's a lot of competition."
This year's competitors include the following:
Blake Turner and Taylor Bolan, Alabama; Dustin Snelson and Billy Narut, Florida; Dawson Lenz and Jake Mims, Georgia; Lance Freeman and Tyler Olsen, Kentucky; Joshua Farley and Chris Carnes, North Carolina; Garrett Gunter and Michael Morris, South Carolina; Tanner Hunt and Alan Shelton, Tennessee; and Jarryd Newell and Nico Retief, South Africa.
South Africa didn't send an adult team this year, but continued its tradition of providing the fishing trip of a lifetime for its Juniors.
"They've turned out some really good sticks," Twiggs said.
One of the best was Geoffrey Toplis, who won the JWC in the 11-14 division at Alabama's Logan Martin Lake in 2007. He was paired with Bassmaster Classic contender Edwin Evers.
Evers quickly schooled the young South Africa on how to fish a jig, and that's the bait that Toplis used to catch both of his keepers.
"When Geoffrey won, they had a big celebration and parade for him back home (Capetown)," the youth director added. "He has been a great asset to B.A.S.S."
Twiggs also pointed out that others who have competed in Junior competitions are now going on to fish Open tournaments. "We've got some 16-year-olds who are fishing as pros.
"Our tournaments (for Juniors) are the most difficult, the most challenging, and the most elite," he said. "If you can make it there, you've accomplished something."
7hBy Ian O'Connor