Skylar Hamilton didn't get off to the the start he wanted in the first two days of the Bassmaster BASSfest competition on Chickamauga Lake, but the 19-year-old from Dandridge, Tenn., made the most of a second chance Friday on Nickajack Lake.
With the help of a 9-pound, 15-ounce monster bass, Hamlton weighed in five fish weighing 25 pounds, 13 ounces to win the second-chance shootout to make the weekend field of 60 anglers who will launch this morning back in Dayton.
"Today was unlike anything I've ever experienced," Hamilton said in a released statement. "I'm not that old, but I've fished a lot -- most of my life."
In a new twist in the first-ever BASSfest, the anglers outside the top 50 were given one last chance Friday on Nickajack with 10 final spots in the weekend on the line.
Hamilton finished well ahead of second-place finisher Mike Kernan from Wylie, Texas, who weighed in at 17-15. The rest of the top 10 earning their way into the weekend competition were Charley Hartley of Grove City, Ohio (16-13); Kotaro Kiriyama of Moody, Ala.,(16-4); David Mullins of Mount Carmel, Tenn. (15-14); Tracy Adams of Wilkesboro, N.C. (15-9); Brock Mosley of Collinsville, Miss. (15-7); Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala. (15-7); Matt Reed of Madisonville, Texas (14-15); and Mike McClelland of Bella Vista, Ark., (13-12).
Today's field of 60 pro anglers will be narrowed to 12 finalists who will battle Sunday for the grand prize of $125,000 and entry in the 2015 Bassmaster Classic. Anglers will launch from the Dayton Boat Ramp at 7 a.m. today, and weigh-in will begin 4 p.m.
Another team of University of Tennessee at Chattanooga anglers shook off a bad first day in the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Eastern Regional and got a measure of revenge on Watts Bar Lake in Friday's final day.
Tyler Watson and Gavyn Bridges were shut out Thursday, with lots of bites but no qualifying fish, and entered Friday with nothing to show for their troubles except an injured finger for Watson after the only keeper they saw threw the hook into him.
"We were catching them 30 minutes in [Thursday], cast after cast, but they were all short," Bridges said. "The only big fish we caught was about a 3-pounder that came off, and that's when the hook came right into [Watson's] finger. That pretty much sums yesterday up.
But on Friday, Watson -- who's from Sweewater -- used his knowledge of the lake to put him and Bridges into a good spot, and they came in with their five-fish limit weighing in at 11-11 to finish 32nd.
Both said it was strange to be standing on stage in front of a crowd at the weigh-in like the pros do on television.
"It's kind of weird. I used to watch [Bassmaster tournaments] at home growing up and in school," Watson said. "And now I'm here weighing fish in. It's kind of weird."
"It's nice to have UT-Chattanooga up there all the time. We try to get our name up there all the time."
Contact Jim Tanner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6478. Follow him at twitter.com/JFTanner.
Jim Tanner has worked as assistant sports editor at the Times Free Press since late 2006. He started at the Times Free Press in 2001 and worked as a news copy/design editor from 2001 through 2006. In addition to working as a night and weekend editor producing local and national sports coverage for print and online readers, Jim occasionally writes local sports and outdoors stories. Jim grew up in Ringgold, Ga., and is a graduate ...