DECATUR, Ala. — Jonathan Carter of Orrington headed to the Cabela’s B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Championship, held Oct. 25-27, with hopes of winning the fishing tournament and earning a berth on next year’s Bassmaster Elite Series.
Carter came up a bit short on that count, but did finish ninth. The best news: Because he was the top eastern finisher in the tourney, he earned a coveted berth in the sport’s Super Bowl — The Bassmaster Classic.
According to the Maine B.A.S.S. Federation Nation website, Carter is the first Maine B.A.S.S. Federation Nation angler to reach the Classic.
“I was shooting to win it, but at the very least I wanted to qualify for the Classic,” Carter said. “I have pretty high goals for myself. But everything turned out really well.”
The Bassmaster Classic will be staged on Grand Lake o’ The Cherokees near Tulsa, Okla., Feb. 22-24, 2013.
According to the Bassmaster website, as many as 54 anglers will participate in the classic. The top prize: $500,000. The total prize pool is $1.2 million.
According to that website, Carter will compete against Bassmaster Elite Series professionals, as well as qualifiers from Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster opens, the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series and the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Weekend Series.
“Those 54 guys are the top anglers in the world,” Carter said. All of them except for the six of us [who qualified out of the Wheeler Lake tourney] are basically full-time fishermen. So we’re up against some extremely talented anglers. But I’ll try my best out there, and hopefully do all right.”
Carter graduated from Brewer High School and the University of Maine and is a first-grade teacher at Dyer Elementary School in South Portland. He competes in Maine bass tournaments as a member of the Full Throttle Bassmasters.
He said he was grateful for the support of the Maine Bass Federation and Basscat Boats.
The B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Championship was held on Wheeler Lake, a massive impoundment of the Tennesee River that covers 67,100 acres. To put that in context, Moosehead Lake, Maine’s largest, covers about 75,000 acres.
“It’s a lot different from any water that we have up here,” Carter said. “It’s quite muddy and there is a lot of shallow, shallow water and just a few main river channels that you have to navigate through. It’s called a lake, but it’s more like what a Maine person would call a river. And the water rises and drops very quickly. It dropped a foot during the tournament. I think they’re doing the fall draw-down for the winter.”
Carter’s three-day total: 15 fish (the maximum allowed) that weighed 32 pounds, 2 ounces. Carter caught five fish each day, with daily totals of 13 pounds, 2 ounces on Oct. 25, 9 pounds, 14 ounces on Oct. 26 and 9 pounds, 2 ounces on Oct. 27.
Mark Dove of North Vernon, Ind., won the tournament with a three-day weight total of 39 pounds. He topped the second-place finisher by more than a pound. For his efforts, Dove won a prize package worth $53,465. Included in the package: A new Skeeter bass boat with a 200 hp Yamaha motor, Humminbird electronics and a Minn Kota trolling motor. He also earned a slot on the 2013 Bassmaster Elite Series.
Carter entered the final day three pounds ahead of Dove, but the eventual champ caught five fish that weighed an impressive 20 pounds, 1 ounce on the tourney’s final day — more than four pounds more than any other angler that day.
“I was fifth overall and I was leading the East division [going into the last day] and I had a pretty good lead in the east,” Carter said. “I felt decent about my chances of going to the Classic, but I really wanted to catch the leader.”
Carter qualified for the Cabela’s B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Championship by winning the organization’s Eastern Divisional Tournament in Massachusetts in September.
Carter said he received $500 for finishing ninth overall, and received some gift cards from Cabela’s and a rain suit because he qualified for the Bassmaster Classic.
Most Maine anglers will be fishing through holes in the ice during February, but Carter said eager to try his luck in Oklahoma.
“At least I’ll be used to the cold weather [that’s expected],” he said.
And though he’ll be taking on the biggest names in the sport, he still plans to be competitive.
“I was telling a guy the other day that I feel really honored to make it there, but my goals are still the same,” Carter said. “I want to win.”