Submitted by: Nick Angiulo
Every two years now for more than a decade, the New Jersey Bass Federation has scheduled its annual Team Tournament on Lake Champlain. And for good reason! Lake Champlain is one of the world’s best overall bass fisheries, and routinely produces both prodigious numbers and weights of smallmouth and largemouth bass. The lake also offers nearly unlimited opportunities for anglers to catch fish in numerous ways, such as fishing shallow or deep weed areas, rock ledges and humps, or just about everything in between. Add those factors to the scenic beauty of the Adirondack Mountains and you have just a few of the reasons why some of the most accomplished bass professionals in the world consider Lake Champlain their favorite lake. And as in year’s past, this year’s event, held on June 16 and June 17, proved to be a highly competitive affair.

The Team Tournament pits the top six anglers from each participating New Jersey Bass Federation club against one another in a two-day, cumulative weight event, and the event routinely brings New Jersey’s best bass anglers out to compete. Aside from the team portion of the event, where the top five teams received cash prizes, the top eight individuals received cash prizes and the top six anglers in each division (Boater/Co-Angler) qualified to advance to the 2016 District 15 TBF National Semi-Final.

This year’s winning team, the Bucketmouth Brigade, made a furious comeback between Day 1 and Day 2. In fact, after the first day of competition, the team found itself in 10TH place with 65.17 pounds, more than 10 pounds from first place. However, following the lead of the event’s overall winner, Dave Frost, the team more than made up that deficit on Day 2 and won the event by the closest of margins, a mere 1.25 pounds.

The team’s overall weight was 150.94 pounds. The team comprised of the following members: John Carpenter; Dave Frost; Frank Hutchinson; Al “Froggy” Kolasa; Doug Peabody; and Joe Sodora. While each of the team’s members played their part, as mentioned above, one member clearly led the way. Leading the team and winning the individual portion of the event was Dave Frost with 38.82 pounds. Frost’s Day 1 weight of 17.38 pounds had him safely in second place, but it was his Day 2 weight that stunned the attendees. Frost’s Day 2 limit of 21.44 pounds, the largest of the event by over two pounds, gave him his total and an overall winning margin of over six pounds. The next highest team finisher was John Carpenter with 28.34 pounds. Carpenter was followed by Kolasa with 25.78 pounds, Hutchinson with 24.68 pounds; Peabody with 19.24 pounds and Sodora with 11.96 pounds.

The Day 1 leading team, the Mega Bass 6, finished in a close second place. While the team posted similar weight totals between Day 1 and Day 2, it could not amass enough weight to combat the Day 2 onslaught of the Bucketmouth Brigade. In the two days, the team compiled a total weight of 149.69 pounds. Consistency was the key for this squad as every team member posted at least 22 pounds over the two days. The team was led by Federation President Mike Hart with 30.19 pounds. Hart was followed by George Hutchinson with 26.61 pounds, Randy Hutchinson with 24.22 pounds, Frank White with 23.15 pounds, Ron Bassani with 22.90 pounds and Jim Beatty with 22.62 pounds.

Finishing in third place was the Big “D” Valley Bassmasters with a total weight of 143.65 pounds. The team, which consisted of three anglers who had never fished the lake before, weighed in similar weights each day. The team was led by Carl Fontana with 29.46 pounds, placing him in fourth place in the Co-Angler Division. Fontana was followed by Dexter Marshall with 26.66 pounds; Nick Angiulo with 25.52 pounds; Ryan McGinty with 25.29 pounds; Glen Savino with 18.82 pounds; and Dave Lindabury with 17.90 pounds.

Aside from the team aspect of the event, as previously mentioned, the top eight individual finishers received cash prizes. Those individuals were as follows:
1ST Place – Dave Frost – Bucketmouth Brigade – 38.82 pounds; 2ND Place – Chris Liobis – Bergen Bassmasters – 33.53 pounds; 3RD Place – Joseph Casale – North Jersey Bass Anglers – 32.72 pounds; 4TH Place – Greg Trass – Bergen Bassmasters – 31.35 pounds; 5TH Place – Chris Lee – Essex County Bassmasters – 31.19 pounds; 6TH Place – Alan Zenkert – Northern NJ Bassmasters – 31.14 pounds; 7TH Place – Pete Longo – Clearwater Bassmasters – 30.96 pounds; 8TH Place – Ben Keysper – Raritan Valley Bassmasters – 30.93 pounds.

Additionally, the top six anglers in each division (Boater/Co-Angler) qualified to advance to the 2016 District 15 TBF National Semi-Final.

Those individuals are as follows:
Boater Division/Co-Angler Division: Dave Frost/Joseph Casale; Chris Liobis/Greg Trass; Chris Lee/Steve Brinster; Alan Zenkert,Carl Fontana; Pete Longo,Frank Hutchinson; Ben Keysper/William Garcia

Tournament Notes
1. While this event did not produce the large weights that are possible at Lake Champlain, the results were nonetheless impressive. In this regard, the 102 anglers weighed in 871 fish over the two days. Of those 871 fish, 868 (99.66%) were returned to the lake alive. Kudos are warranted to all the anglers and Tournament Staff for ensuring that all fish were handled properly and kept alive. The total weight for the event was 2,200.08 pounds, which comes out to 21.57 pounds per angler and a per fish average of 2.53 pounds. Finally, 53 anglers (51.96%) weighed in 10 fish limits.

2. Special thanks to all the anglers who volunteered to help the Tournament Staff before, during and after the event. It is sincerely appreciated!