Submitted by: Nick Angiulo
The New Jersey Bass Federation’s annual Team Tournament, which pits the top six anglers from each participating New Jersey Bass Federation club against one another in a two-day, cumulative weight event, brings New Jersey’s best bass anglers out to compete. Aside from the bragging rights, cup and prize money awarded to the winning club, this event also affords the top six individual finishers spots on the 2014 New Jersey State Team. The 2013 event was waged, for the first time, on the fertile waters of the Northern Chesapeake Bay (colloquially known as the Susquehanna Flats). The Flats has hundreds of miles of fertile rivers, creeks, main bay areas, submergent and emergent vegetation, and man-made structure, giving anglers a huge variety of choices. Reports from the area prior to the tournament indicated that weights breaking the 25 pound barrier a day were possible and the Federation’s best took to the water with extremely high expectations. With mostly stable to warming weather during the week, most anglers expected the fishing to be at its peak during the two competition days of May 16 and 17. However, as is always the case in tournament fishing, while good numbers and weights were caught during the event, fishing proved somewhat tougher than expected. Regardless, the Flats showed its capacity for producing big fish and close finishes. In this regard, the top three finishing teams were separated by less than two pounds over the two days of competition.
On Day 1, a warm, relatively calm and sunny day, an impressive 273 fish weighing 872.44 pounds were brought to the scales. The leading teams on the day included the Big D Valley Bassmasters with 72.92 pounds; the Limiters with 67.46 pounds and the Quickfire Bassmasters with 64.26 pounds. Lurking in fourth place was the Jersey Giants chapter. While the spread in weights seemed significant, given that the Flats is famous for producing giant bass, any team within 15 pounds of the lead had a legitimate shot to move into the top three spots on Day 2. Individually, there was an impressive 22 five fish limits brought in, and the leader posted 20.26 pounds. In order to be within the top 20 on Day 1, an angler needed to bring more than 14.50 pounds to the scales.
With the weather on Day 2 proving similar to Day 1, similar numbers and weights crossed the scales. When the scales were finally closed, the top teams tensely awaited the results, knowing that the weights were all tremendously close. However, it was the Limiters that did enough on Day 2 to take the event. On Day 2, the Limiters posted 69.14 pounds, for a total two-day weight of 136.60, good enough to win by just under two pounds. A hard charging Jersey Giants took the second place team spot. That contingent posted the best Day 2 weight of 71.12 pounds, and its two-day total of 134.72 was just .02 pounds better than the third place team, the Quickfire Bassmasters, who managed 134.70 pounds. The Day 1 leading Big D Valley Bassmasters dropped to sixth place. Day 2’s individual statistics indicated that 262 fish weighing 845.20 pounds crossed the scales and 24 five fish limits were weighed in.
Leading the way for this year’s Limiters contingent was Federation Executive Officer Doug Peabody who weighed in 35.84 pounds of fish over the two-day event. Peabody posted five fish limits both days weighing 19.26 pounds and 16.58 pounds, respectively. Also, importantly, Peabody finished with the second highest individual weight for the event, securing a Boater spot on the 2014 New Jersey State Team. Behind Peabody, also with two five fish limits, weighing 13.98 pounds and 18.14 pounds for a 32.12 pound total, was Rob Laufenberg. Next was perennially strong Co-Angler Joe Sodora with 26.30 pounds, including a 13.92 pound Day 1 limit and four fish on Day 2 weighing 12.38 pounds. Dave Frost was next with a combined eight fish weighing 23.70 pounds; followed by Dan Ardin with four fish for 11.88 pounds and Rob Gilmartin with two fish for 6.76 pounds. As previously mentioned, this team’s total weight was 136.60 pounds.
The second place Jersey Giants contingent posted 134.72 pounds and several solid individual weights. The team’s highest finisher was Co-Angler Dave Burkett, with a two-day total of 35.04 pounds, including a Day 1 16.56 pound limit and a Day 2 18.48 pound limit. Burkett’s weight placed him in fourth overall and garnered his Co-Angler spot on the 2014 State Team. Burkett was followed by teammate Nick Lepone, who weighed in 27.70 pounds. Lepone had only four fish on Day 1 for 11.62 pounds, but bounced back on Day 2 with a 16.08 pound limit. Next was Eric Bennett who had 21.20 pounds. Bennett also had a slow Day 1 with only three fish weighing 7.54 pounds, but he posted a five fish 13.66 pound Day 2 limit. The rest of the Jersey Giants were: Greg Jude with six fish and 19.60 pounds; Tim Dafick with five fish and 15.94 pounds; and Gary Kreig with five fish and 15.24 pounds.
Finishing in an excruciatingly close third place in the event with a weight of 134.70 pounds was the Quickfire Bassmasters. Leading the team was Vince Troiano with 10 fish weighing 30.36 pounds, including a Day 1 13.28 pound limit and a Day 2 17.08 pound limit. Included in his Day 2 weight was the Day 2 lunker winning 6.10 pound largemouth. Troiano was followed by Chris Pentz with 24.76 pounds. Pentz had three fish on Day 1 for 10.80 pounds and followed it up with four fish on Day 2 for 13.96 pounds. Next was Derick Olson with three fish on Day 1 for 9.22 pounds, followed up with a strong Day 2 limit of 14.56 pounds, for a 23.78 pound total. The remainder of the team was: Brian Calloway with eight fish for 22.88 pounds; Jason Orecchio with six fish for 17.84 pounds; and Ryan Anderson with five fish for 15.08 pounds.
Aside from the team aspect of the event, and as previously mentioned, the top six individual finishers make the 2014 New Jersey State Team. Positions one through three get Boater slots, and positions four through six receive Co-Angler slots. The overall winner of the event was Keith Kurpicki of the Warren County Bassmasters. Kurpicki’s two-day total of 36.62 pounds took the overall individual title by just under one pound. On Day 1, Kurpicki was the only angler to crack the 20 pound mark posting a 20.26 pound limit. Kurpicki’s Day 2 was not as easy but he still managed a 16.36 pound limit to secure the victory. Second place, as mentioned above, went to Doug Peabody of the Limiters with 35.84 pounds. Third place, the last Boater spot, was taken by Rich Schneidereit of the Clearwater Bassmasters. Schneidereit has made so many State Teams (over 20) he has likely lost count! His two day weight was 35.48. Fourth place, the first Co-Angler spot, as mentioned above, went to Dave Burkett with 35.04 pounds. The fifth place spot was taken by Bob Rose of the Hawg Heaven chapter with 33.58 pounds. The sixth place spot was captured by Blazin Bass’ Darren Pincus with 33.46 pounds. The first and second alternates were Jim Cavanaugh of the Gloucester County Bass Club with 32.40 pounds and Steve Brinster of the Greenback Bassmasters with 32.26 pounds.
The Day 1 lunker for the event was a 6.80 pound giant caught by Ed Rigsby of the K.O.B.A. chapter and the Day 2 lunker was the already mentioned 6.10 pound largemouth caught by Vince Troiano of Quickfire.
The overall weights for this event were very impressive. In all, 535 fish weighing a whopping 1,718.84 pounds were weighed in, for an average weight per fish of 3.21 pounds! Also, with all of the big fish weighed in, only seven (1.31%) were not brought to the scales alive. This is evidence of the health and thriving fishery. Additionally, this event was the debut of the Federation’s new weigh-in system, which includes a “bag-in-bag” and new aeration system. These changes were very successful as no angler indicated that any fish brought to the tanks perished and no deceased fish were observed at the ramp after being returned to the water. Both the anglers and tournament staff are to be commended on their handling of these large fish, which are often the most vulnerable to being lost.