ESPN2 will air the BASS Federation Championship on Saturday, Jan. 27 , at 9 a.m. EST.
GADSDEN, Ala. In his first time fishing outside the state of Oklahoma, Royce Dennington outfished 53 other amateur anglers with a catch of 43 pounds of bass to win the BASS Federation Nation National Championship on Alabama's Lake Neely Henry.
The 39-year-old science teacher at Barnsdall (Okla.) High School beat South Carolina Federation Nation representative Brent Long by a mere 2 ounces. Dennington brought 14 pounds, 14 ounces to the scales on Friday, just enough to nudge Long from the leader's spot he had attained on Friday.
With the victory, Dennington earned one of six coveted Federation Nation berths in the 2007 Bassmaster Classic, a spot in the Bassmaster Elite Series, $15,000 in cash, a fully rigged Triton boat valued at $50,000, and a guaranteed spot in the Bassmaster Open division of his choice.
Fishing fans can catch Dennington's banner day and all of the on-the-water Federation Nation action on ESPN2 on Saturday, Jan. 27, at 9 a.m. ET.
"I wasn't even worried about winning this tournament," an elated Dennington said. "I just wanted to make the Classic. But this (first-place finish) is a nice surprise. This is just incredible."
Dennington earned his win by working a brown custom-made jig in 16 to 18 feet of water, focusing on just a few spots all three days of the championship event.
Although Long, 36, missed out on the victory by 2 ounces, he was not overly disappointed: He still qualified for his first Bassmaster Classic via his top finish in the Southern Division.
Finishing third in the three-day Federation Nation event was Texan Jimmy Johnson (39-7). He was followed by Japan's Shigeru Tsukiyama (38-1) and Maryland's Kevin Waterman (34-11).
Four other Federation Nation anglers will join Dennington and Long at the Classic because they also were victorious within their regional division. Tsukiyama of Tokyo was first in the Western Division; Waterman of La Plata., Md., emerged as the winner in the Mid-Atlantic Division; Chris Novack of Willington, Conn., was first in the Eastern Division; and Terry McWilliams of Greenfield, Ind., won in the Northern Division.
"I have been trying to get to the Classic through the Federation Nation since 1990," said McWilliams, who, like his fellow qualifiers, had to fish many tournaments to reach the Classic level of competition. "This is just a dream come true and I can't wait to get to the Classic."
The same day the six BASS Federation Nation anglers learned they'd be fishing the Classic, 12 aspiring young anglers earned the right to compete in the CastingKids National Championship, to be held concurrently with the Feb 23-25 Classic in Birmingham, Ala.
In the 7-10 age group, the six anglers who came out on top in their respective divisions were Dylan Monson (Northern) from Parkston, S.D.; April Floyd (Southern) from Okeechobee, Fla.; Sierra Voisin (Eastern) from Teeswater, Ontario; Douglas Neary (Mid-Atlantic) from Crofton, Md.; David Ashton (Western) from Boise, Idaho; and Shea Baumgartner (Central) from North Platte, Neb.
Six anglers also qualified from the 11-14 age group. They were Nicholas Neidige (Northern) from Seymour, Ind.; Jonathan Fleckenstein (Southern) from Sharpsburg, Ga.; Shauni Voisin (Eastern) from Teeswater, Ontario; Ryan Bush (Mid-Atlantic) from Big Stone Gap, Va.; Jeri Clark from Richland, Wash.; and Hunter King from North Platte, Neb.
Sponsors of the Federation Nation include Toyota, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Evan Williams, KeelShield, Longhorn and Costa Del Mar.
For more coverage of the Federation Nation National Championship, check out ESPNOutdoors.com