19-Year-Old Tennessean Wins Nickajack Shootout

Friday, June 13, 2014
Skylar Hamilton
Skylar Hamilton
Fred Fletcher takes the oath of office as the new chief of the Chattanooga Police Department in a ceremony on ThuIn the famed movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character was given a second chance — over and over and over again.
Skylar Hamilton was perfectly satisfied Friday to get just one second chance. After all, one was all he needed to stay in the Bassmaster BASSfest game for $125,000 and an instant-in to the 2015 world championship of bass fishing, the Bassmaster Classic.
With a Nickajack Lake catch of 25 pounds, 13 ounces — including a 9-15 kicker largemouth — the 19-year-old angler from Dandridge, Tenn.
, topped the list of the 10 competitors who won the right on Friday to advance to Saturday’s round of BASSfest competition on Chickamauga Lake.
The icing on Mr. Hamilton’s cake: He had the best day of his life as an angler.
“Today was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I’m not that old, but I’ve fished a lot — most of my life,” said Mr. Hamilton, who said he began competing at age 12.
Besides Mr. Hamilton, the best at Nickajack were: Mike Kernan of Wylie, Texas, second place with 17-15; Charley Hartley of Grove City, Ohio, third with 16-13; Kotaro Kiriyama of Moody, Ala., fourth with 16-4; David Mullins of Mount Carmel, Tenn., fifth with 15-14; Tracy Adams of Wilkesboro, N.C., sixth with 15-9; Brock Mosley of Collinsville, Miss., seventh with 15-7; Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala., eighth with 15-7 after a tie-breaker was applied; Matt Reed of Madisonville, Texas, ninth with 14-15; and Mike McClelland of Bella Vista, Ark., tenth with 13-12.
Eighty anglers fell out of the competition. The 10 Nickajack winners will pick up their Chickamauga weight total from the first two days when they join the 50 pros who qualified for the semi-finals through the Wednesday and Thursday rounds on Chickamauga Lake.
Mr. Hamilton, fishing Nickajack for the first time despite living nearby in Dandridge, said he began his day by running to the Chickamauga Dam. So crowded with other competitors, Mr. Hamilton turned around and went looking.
He stopped at a ledge just outside a creek mouth, where he saw bass breaking the surface, feeding. He threw a football jig and hooked into his first bass, about a 2-pounder.
Then he noticed a mudline where the creek met the main river. His first cast over the mudline yielded a 6-pounder. His next cast brought back a 4-pounder. On the third cast, the 9-15 was on the hook. It was the largest bass he’d ever caught.
Later he landed a 12-inch spotted bass to complete his limit.
“I really needed to get rid of it, but couldn’t until about 12 o’clock or so. I finally did with one of about 4 pounds,” he said.
His “mudline” lure setup was a 10-inch plum Berkley Power Worm with a 3/8-ounce Tungsten weight. His hook was a Gamakatsu 5/0 straight-shank model.
That one spot held winning bass because of the big forage, highly attractive to recent postspawn largemouth, he said.
“That cold water creates a lot of oxygen for shad. A lot of bigger fish trying to feed up after the spawn were after those shad. I saw shad there as big as 12 inches,” he said.
Mr. Hamilton was, perhaps, more excited about landing the largest bass of his life than he was about besting 90 other anglers.
“I feel amazing,” he said. “And I’m happy to make it back to Chickamauga.”
Mr. Kernan started his day by flipping to manmade river structures. A bust, he went to the dam. There he caught eight keepers. His best was a 5-pounder.
Even though he’ll begin the next leg of the tournament in 52nd place, his weight from the first two days of 22-11, plus a really good day’s weight, possibly could jump him into the Top 12, he said.
“Chickamauga has proved it can produce some giant sacks,” Mr. Kernan said.
Mr. Hartley, after beating the bank, gave up on that tactic when it produced only three small bass.
“At about 11 o’clock, I said, ‘If you don’t even go out there and try, you won’t have a chance,’” he said. He turned to the strolling technique, something he said isn’t one of his strengths. He lost two fish on the first and second passes over a shoal.
On the third try, he hooked into a 4/5 double on his crankbait.
“They tried to jump, but they couldn’t,” he laughed. “They were pulling against each other.”
Mr. Hartley landed them both. With another 4-pounder, and a few bass, he was on his way to claiming his second chance. His final weight was 16-13.
Mr. Hamilton’s 9-15 was the largest bass weighed in from Nickajack. But, for his 10-11 on Day 2 on Chickamauga Lake, Elite pro Hank Cherry of Maiden, N.C., remained the top contender for BASSfest’s Carhartt Big Bass award of up to $1,500.
Part competition, part festival, BASSfest is a new and unique event. The competition began with 107 pros of the Bassmaster Elite Series plus 33 anglers from the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens presented by Allstate circuit. After two days on Chickamauga Lake, the Top 50 stayed on shore to meet fans while the remaining 90 anglers moved to Nickajack for Friday’s shootout. The Top 10 from the shootout qualified to rejoin the Top 50 for Saturday’s semi-final round on Chickamauga.
The Top 12 after Saturday will move into the final round Sunday on Chickamauga to compete for a first-place prize of $125,000 and a berth in the 2015 Bassmaster Classic.
The 60 semi-finalists will take off from Dayton’s Point Park at 7 a.m. Saturday. They’ll weigh their catches at the park beginning at 4 p.m. Sunday’s takeoff and weigh-ins also will be at 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. All times are Eastern.
There’s no admission charge for any BASSfest event.
The local host of the event is the City of Dayton.
The Bassmasters on ESPN2 will present coverage of BASSfest in four hours of programming beginning June 29 at 8-9 a.m. ET. The next two hours will air July 6, 6-8 a.m. ET, including the finale. It will reair July 13 at 7-8 a.m. ET.

2014 Bassmaster Elite Series Official Sponsors: Toyota, Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, Evan Williams Bourbon, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Yamaha
2014 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: Booyah, Carhartt, Diet Mountain Dew, Livingston Lures, Lowrance, Plano, Power-Pole, Rigid Industries, Shimanorsday at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium. City Judge Russell Bean administered the oath.

Tellico Hatchery Announces Winter Hours

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency announced winter hours for the Tellico Hatchery in Tellico Plains. Holidays along with hours of daylight and alterations in operations are the primary reasons for changes. Fish eat less during colder months. This reason, along with a reduction of seasonal responsibilities such as mowing grass and hatchery upkeep, means fewer people on staff. ... (click for more)

Wildlife Officer Pete Geesling Honored In Veterans Day Observance Ceremony

Brandon “Pete” Geesling, a wildlife officer for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency in Warren County, was one of five veteran state employees recognized during a Veterans Day observance event held at the Tennessee Tower Plaza.     Previously, Mr. Geesling served as a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps. He was a combat engineer which included a deployment ... (click for more)

Larry Schumacher Named Chief Executive Officer Of CHI Memorial

T he board of directors of CHI Memorial and Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) have chosen Larry Schumacher as the chief executive officer (CEO) of CHI Memorial effective Jan. 4, 2016 . Mr. Schumacher comes to CHI Memorial from Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS) based in Springfield, Illinois where he served as system chief operating officer for the past eight years.  ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Under Flood Watch Through Wednesday

With a steady rain set to continue through Wednesday, Chattanooga is under a flood watch. Over four inches of rain are expected in some areas. Here is the advisory from the National Weather Service: ...LOCALIZED FLOODING POSSIBLE ACROSS EAST TENNESSEE AND SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA THROUGH WEDNESDAY MORNING... .THE COMBINATION OF DEEP SUBTROPICAL MOISTURE AND A SLOW MOVING FRONTAL ... (click for more)

Why Are We Allowing Poor Architecture And Urban Design Downtown?

   Over the past four decades our fair city has enjoyed striking improvements to our City Center and Northshore areas in large part due to citizen input and the guidance of the former Urban Design Studio. We are now widely recognized as a hotbed of entrepreneurship, neighborhood revitalization and good Urban Design. At the most recent City Council meeting, the leader and ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: My Garden In December

As the fallen leaves confirm today is the first of December, my monthly walk in life’s garden is more foggy than fun. In much-older times, good children would get a piece of candy on Christmas Day while bad ones would receive a lump of coal. So here are some things that deserve a helping of both: A PIECE OF CANDY to the amazingly few who can spy a nest of mistletoe high in area ... (click for more)