ESCANABA, Mich. Three time's the charm for Wisconsin's Wes Haney, who put together a three-day total of 52 pounds to win the BASS Federation Nation Northern Divisional and earn his first trip to the BASS Federation Nation National Championship.
"It's just a dream come true," Haney said. "You know how much work it takes to get here, and then to have a chance to win is amazing. The emotions just come out."
Haney, who fished one other divisional as a state team member and served as an alternate on another state team, braved extremely rough water today to even make it to Big Bay de Noc.
"I knew the ride was going to be rough, and the ride back was going to be worse," Haney said. "I've been on Eerie, St. Clair, Sturgeon Bay, and this is probably as rough a waves as I've ever been in.
"It seems like in those other areas the waves were rollers and you could kind of drive over them. These weren't rollers today; they just kind of break hard and they just sort of beat you up, and they were big."
Clouds rolled in last night, and stiff winds stirred up Little and Big Bays de Noc into what several anglers said were up to 10-foot seas. Three boats didn't make it back to the landing, and one pair of anglers had to be rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard after their boat took on water, Tournament Director Jon Stewart said.
Haney said he caught his first two days' limits primarily on Big Bay de Noc Shoal, but had to move to Garden Bluffs farther inside Big Bay de Noc today to catch is 15-pound, 1-ounce limit that cinched the tournament.
"The rest of my team was in there, and they helped me catch the fish that put me over the top," Haney said.
The rest of the top five in the individual competition were Michigan's Randy Wieczorek (50-10), Wisconsin's Mike Mattis (14-0), Minnesota's Dean Capra (48-8) and Wisconsin's Kevin Fassbind (48-0).
Haney and seven other anglers also earned berths in the BASS Federatrion Nation National Championship slated for October on Florida's Harris Chain of Lakes.
Joining Haney as state team winners were Illinois' Gerald Sobkowiak (35-13), Indiana's Brian Hensley (39-9), Iowa's Ron Cherkas (41-11), Michigan's Brandon Rose (43-15), Minnesota's Randy Wieczorek (50-10), Ohio's Jody Adkins (38-14) and South Dakota's Shane Cowan (48-0).
In the team competition, where the division's eight state teams competed for a $30,000 Skeeter/Yamaha package, Michigan won with a cumulative weight of 388 pounds.
However, it was the Junior Bassmaster competitors from that state that pushed the team over the top. Two youngsters fish as part of each state team, primarily competing for berths in the Bassmaster Junior World Championship in two age classes, and their weights are added to the adults' catches for state-team competition.
Michigan swept the Junior Bassmaster competition, with Danny Sprague winning the 11- to 14-year-old division with 11 pounds, 9 ounces and Cody Harris taking the 15- to 18-year-old class with 11 pounds, 4 ounces.
The Michigan state team would have come up short without Harris' and Sprague's 22 pounds, 13 ounces of bass.
"They're just as big a part of the team as anybody," Michigan state team captain Derek Cummings said.
Wisconsin placed second in the team competition with 386-3, followed by South Dakota with 359-1 and Ohio with 318-8. Iowa was fifth with 289-1, Minnesota was sixth with 277-12, Illinois finished seventh with 267-12 and Indiana wrapped up on eighth place with 220-2.