On April 14th a Peru NY native Mr. Ben Wright, President of NY The Bass Federation (NYTBF) became the first NY angler to win the TBF National Championship. Wright’s an avid tournament bass angler and fierce competitor of the weekend bass tournament scene. When he’s not out fishing a local tournament he’s usually thinking about bass fishing. We sat down with Wright shortly after his national championship victory for a Q & A about the experience and what it means to him.
NYTBF: You’re the first NY angler to win a TBF National Championship; what’s it feel like to hold the title of 2013 The Bass Federation Co-Angler of the Year?
Wright: It is truly an honor! I fished against some of the best anglers in the country and was able to come out on top. I hope to carry the success forward and well represent myself and the New York TBF at both the BFL All American as well as the Forrest Wood Cup. I am truly thankful to have the most amazing family and friends, who continue to support me as I chase these little green and brown fish across the country.
NYTBF: Is this the biggest thing to happen in your competitive fishing career?
Wright: This win is by far my biggest angling accomplishment. I have had some limited success at both the club and state level, but this win is my crowning achievement thus far. Although the BFL All American will be amazing, I am really looking forward to the Forrest Wood Cup, as I believe it to be the pinnacle event in the fishing industry, a strong finish there would be a dream come true!
NYTBF: You have a magnificent trophy to commemorate this national championship victory, but what are your thoughts about the prize packet that accompanies it?
Wright: TBF has partnered itself with FLW and in turn provides opportunities that no other organization is able to do. On top of a generous cash prize, I have been awarded all expense paid trips to, and entry in both the 2013 BFL All American as well as the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup, two of the most prestigious events in all of fishing. If that weren’t enough, the on stage surprise of being the first “Living the Dream” co-angler in TBF history and being awarded paid entry into the 2014 FLW Everstart trail was amazing!
NYTBF: Tell us a little about how you won the title (techniques and how you fished)
Wright: New for 2013, anglers were allotted three days of practice, where as it had only been one in the past. The first two days I struggled, catching only two keeper fish while working with NYTBF boater Jim Schneider. With water temps ranging from 49 degrees in some deeper shaded coves to as high as 66 in some shallower muddy coves, we expected that we might find bedding bass in the warmer coves, however, we didn’t. After significant searching we moved to staging grounds and began looking a bit deeper on secondary points and did have some very limited success, but nothing significant.
By the end of the second day of practice, while very happy to be there, I was getting a little discouraged by not getting bit better and wasn’t too optimistic about my chances for the tournament. It wasn’t until practice day three, where co-anglers practice with their day one boater that I began to turn things around. The weather was terrible, with heavy rain and wind. We began working rocky windblown shoreline adjacent to deeper water with jerkbaits and Alabama Rigs (A-Rig).
My boater and eventual boater winner Mark Daniels and I had a great day, including a 7 lb. giant that I caught on the A-rig late in the day. It was at that point that I knew we were on something solid. The key to generating bites was finding good rock and/ rock to pea gravel transitions on banks that sloped between 45 and 60 degrees adjacent deeper water. We generally kept the boat in about 25 feet and cast perpendicular to shore. We both used this pattern throughout the tournament.
I caught all but one of the fish I weighed in n the A-Rig dressed with 4” and 5” white curly tailed grubs. Two out of three days I out-fished my boater with this bait, despite having the second cast to most areas. I believe the fish were keying in on the white and while I didn’t always catch more fish than my boaters, my bites were form the bigger fish. Throughout the week I caught and weighed several fish over 5 lbs, a 6 lb. on the final day and 7 pounder fish was my best in practice.
The only fish that I weighed-in not caught on the A-Rig came on day 3, in shallow stained water, in a rocky creek arm. That fish ate a Strike King KVD 1.5 square bill in Sexy Shad. I caught 15 lbs. 11 oz day one, 19 lbs. 9oz. day two and 15 lbs. 9 oz with only 4 fish on day three. The best part was only losing one small fish at the boat the entire tournament.
NYTBF: Was there any moment during the four day event when you knew you had a real shot to win it all?
Wright: At the end of day 3 (the 2nd day of competition) I had caught 19 pounds 9 oz. and was told I had won the Eastern division and was going to the TV day as well as the BFL All American. I saw the results and realized I was only 11 oz. off the lead. It was then that I knew I had a shot, because they were biting the A-Rig so well, I just had to execute and continue to fish clean.
NYTBF: How long have you been fishing NYTBF tournaments?
Wright: I have been fishing with the NYTBF since 2009 and only began bass fishing as a whole in 2008.
NYTBF: Is there any advice you can share with other co-anglers (non-boaters) seeking to sample tournament bass fishing?
Wright: Just to get out and try it. Join a club and start small. The Bass Federation has many opportunities throughout the summer to get novice anglers on the water in a tournament situation; it’s a great opportunity and an inexpensive way to experience it firsthand.
NYTBF: Anything else you’d like to share about your experience at The Bass Federation National Championship?
Wright: I have always tried to fish with the mentality that when it is your time, it’s your time… In fishing you can’t control what the other anglers are doing, only what you are doing. This tournament really solidified this thought process for me. Day one, I only had four fish in the boat with about 10 minutes left in the day, when I hooked up on a 15” spotted bass, reaching a limit and netting me another 2 lbs.
Day two I was fortunate and probably caught two or three limits of fish, but culling up nearly 4 lbs. late in the day with key big bites. Then day three, there was rain and wind forecasted, but it never came, there were bluebird skies and not a ripple on the water, in turn, the bite slowed significantly. We had to be off the water early that day, due in at 1:30 pm, to make the hour and a half trip from Grove, OK to Rogers, AR, to weigh in on the FLW stage.
It was about 1:05 pm, we’re 20 minutes from the ramp and I only had three fish in the boat for 10 or 11 lbs and I thought my chances of winning had slipped away, and with only minutes to spare I hooked into what turned out to be a 4 lb. class largemouth. I knew I needed help from the other co-anglers, but I also had a shot. I ended up winning the event by 3 lbs 12 oz. and I needed every bit of that late 4 pounder. When it’s your time and it’s meant to be, it will happen…
Image courtesy The Bass Federation