JENKS, Okla. A hushed crowd was on hand at the Jenks High School gymnasium Saturday as the top young anglers in the country attempted to pitch, flip and cast their way to the finals, which will be held during this summer's CITGO Bassmaster Classic.
The semifinals of the Bassmaster CastingKids competition presented by CITGO saw 93 children from five geographic regions narrowed to 10 finalists. The top contender in the 7-10 and 11-14 age groups from each of the regions will compete for over $25,000 in scholarships and prizes at this summer's finals.
The contenders from the 7-10 age group will be Ontario, Canada's Shauni Voisin, 9, from the Northern Division; Georgia's Hope Newkirk, 10, from the Southern Division; Maine's Chase Laflemme, 9, from the Eastern Division; Oregon's Josh Abernathy, 10, from the Western Division; and Mississippi's Adam Eubanks, 10, from the Central Division.
Josh Abernathy scored 130 out of a possible 150.
When asked what he thought of the whole experience, Josh said, "It's cool. I'm a little nervous about it, but it's cool."
His parents, Jan and Jeff, echoed his happy sentiments.
"That was pretty cool," Jan said. He'll be fishing on the grown-up tour one of these days."
"I told him that my only shot of going to the Classic was going to be to watch him," Josh's father, Jeff, said. "He practices a lot and has won the junior angler of the year in our club for four consecutive years."
The children were recognized at the final weigh-in of the CITGO BASS Federation Championship and each received a trophy, medal and Zebco fishing pole.
In the 11-14 age group, Ohio's Darrell Hague, 13, from the Northern Division; North Carolina's Chucky Culley, 12, from the Southern Division; New York's Cole Paradise, 14, from the Eastern Division; California's Briana Babauta, 13, from the Western Division; and Kansas' Chris Smreker, 14, from the Central Division will also make the trip to the Classic.
Paradise, who scored 140 out of a possible 150, was very excited about the win, as this will be the last time the 14 year-old will be eligible to compete in the competition. Paradise had a few suggestions for possible prizes in the future.
"It was great," Paradise said. "I'm really happy. I need a Triton bass boat with a Merc engine and two Dodge Hemi trucks to pull it. One for me and one for my dad."
Sponsors of the CITGO BASS Federation Championship presented by Busch Beer include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Skeeter Boats, Mercury Marine, Yamaha Outboards, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops, BankOne, and Evan Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.
Associate sponsors include G3 Boats.