By NATHAN DEENApril 26, 2012
FORT BENNING, Ga. (April 25, 2012) -- Three members of the Benning Bass Club will head to Lake Okeechobee in Florida June 6-8 to compete in The Bass Federation Southern Division Championship.
Kevin Clarke, John Brady and Tony Winterfeld each qualified for a spot on the team that will represent Georgia as it competes against fishermen from Florida, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky.
Clarke is the Fort Benning chief of police, Brady is the command sergeant major of 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment, and Winterfeld is a contractor for the Science Application International Corporation.
A top-12 finish at the Georgia Top-Six state tournament March 19-20 at Clarks Hill Lake on the Georgia-South Carolina border was required to qualify for the state team. Clarke won the tournament, while Brady finished sixth and Winterfeld finished 11th.
The Benning Bass Club, which is open to active-duty and retired Soldiers and Family members, had one of its most successful years at the tournament with a second-place team finish, Brady said.
"I became a member in 1997 and I can't remember when we've had a better year," Brady said.
Clarke caught the largest bass of the tournament, an 8.23-pounder, which he said was the second-largest fish he has caught.
"That's probably the only time I'll win it in my life," Clarke said. "It's pretty tough to win a state tournament.
"I honestly didn't think I had won. I knew was in the lead after Day 1. 8.23 pounds is an enormous bass. To catch that at a tournament of this level -- wow."
But Clarke said the second day of the tournament wasn't so friendly. Fishermen are allowed to weigh in their five best fish, and two hours into Day 2, Clarke had yet to catch one.
"Day 2 was pretty stressful because all I could do was lose," he said. "There was a lot of pressure. I just told myself all I wanted to do was go out there and catch five fish. All the spots we'd been hitting, you could catch fish all day long."
But none were biting that day. Clarke said he and his partner went from spot to spot, and he finished the day with six fish.
"We made a 25-mile run just to fish this one spot, and I caught a 4-pound bass," he said. "That gave me just enough to earn first place."
Clarke finished the tournament with 33.17 points, Brady finished with 28 points and Winterfeld finished with 25.93 points.
Winterfeld said the key to the club's success was the sharing of information.
"Each night we got together and talked about how we were fishing and where we were fishing … and things of that nature," Winterfeld said.
"We're all trying to work together for the team … but we're also trying to do well for ourselves so we can make the state team."
Clarke said that same attitude will apply at the division championship with the 12 members of the Georgia team. The top two finishers from each state will qualify for the TBF National Championship.
"It's kind of like Survivor," Clarke said. "You want to work with your teammates and share information among each other, but also each individual competes as well."
None of the three fishermen have fished at Lake Okeechobee.
Brady said they are watching YouTube and television clips to get an idea of the hot spots on the lake.
"It gives you an idea of where to start," he said. "It's a big lake and certainly has a big number of fish."