Originally created 04/25/06

Chasing the Big One



It was a tough day for the fish Monday, but the fishermen weren't complaining.

"Yeah, I had a good day," said James Kettler, who weighed in a 20.3-pound sack of largemouths in the Georgia Bass Chapter Federation's Harry Hall Memorial Top Six Championship.

In all, more than 500 anglers representing bass clubs from across the state converged at Thurmond Lake's Wildwood Park for one of the region's most prestigious angling events.

"What we're fishing for here is the top 12 fishermen in the entire state," said Jerry McKinney, the federation's tournament director.

The 85 six-person teams packed into 256 boats in Monday's first round, which will be followed by another full day of casting today. The event concludes with weigh-in and awards this afternoon.

Although the anglers were from across the state, Kettler - a Martinez resident and member of the Wildwood Bassmasters club - definitely had the hometown advantage.

"Here he comes, there's the bag and - oh my!" barked announcer Van Foster Jr., as Kettler weighed in his catch, which included a 6.9-pound fish.

Kettler's fishing partner, Jay Donohue of the Yellow River Bassmasters in Flowery Branch, didn't catch many big fish but had a good day nonetheless.

"I netted every one of his," he said with a grin.

Kettler's secret? "Caught 'em all on worms, except for one," he said. "That one was on a fluke."

There was a secret weapon, though. "I used J.J.'s Magic Dip," he said. "Smells just like garlic."

The purse for the statewide event totals about $1,100 for the top team, along with prizes and fishing tackle, McKinney said.

Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.

ALL THE FISH YOU WISH


WHAT: Harry Hall Memorial Top Six Championship, sponsored by the Georgia Bass Chapter Federation

WHERE: Wildwood Park, Thurmond Lake

PARTICIPANTS: 85 six-person teams on 256 boats

WHEN: Today's fishing starts at 6 a.m., with weigh-in from 12:30-3 p.m. and awards presented at 4.