Submitted by: Nick Angiulo
The New Jersey Bass Federation’s first point event of its 2017 tournament season scheduled for May 21, 2017, could have been epic. Nowhere else in the Northeastern region is the potential to break 25 pounds in a day more likely than the vast brackish river systems that make up the Northern Chesapeake Bay (also known colloquially as the Susquehanna Flats), However, coming into the event, the reported catches were unusually low, most likely due to the recent wide fluctuations in air and water temperatures that had many of the fish in the system in a bit of a funk. With warmer weather coming into the event, the 60 participating anglers were hopeful for a slugfest. While the slug- fest never materialized as the fishing was a grind, the event produced one of the closer three-way finishes in recent point tournament history.

Boater Division
Winning first place in the Boater Division by less than five ounces was Jason Orecchio of the Quickfire Bassmasters. Orecchio brought five fish to the scales that weighed 17.77 pounds, including something relatively uncommon for this portion of the system, smallmouth bass. Regardless, all of Orecchio’s fish were in the three to four- pound range which provided his just enough weight to hold off the second place finisher. Ore chio’s was rewarded for his Boater Division victory with the guaranteed minimum first prize of $2,000.

Finishing a close second was Manny Cruz. Cruz, a member of the United Bass Anglers, also broke the 17-pound mark with five fish for 17.48 pounds. Cruz, who has not fished Federation point events for the past few years marked his return to the competition in a big way. For second place, Cruz received $1,000.

The third place Boater Division finisher also broke the 17-pound mark, with 17.05 pounds. Brian Calloway, of the Big D Valley Bassmasters, brought that weight to the scales which placed him just above the fourth place finisher and earned him the third place $775 Boater Division prize.

With all the bigger fish weighed in at the top of the Boater Division, it was a slight surprise that the lunker fish for the Division was not caught by one of the top finishers. Rather, the lunker winning 5.31 pound largemouth was caught by Keith Kurpicki of the Warren County Bassmasters. He received $125 for his Boater Division winning lunker.

Co-Angler Division
The Co-Angler Division was a grind as many anglers found the larger 15-inch fish needed reluctant to bite. Regardless, several anglers weighed in solid fish and the winning Co-Angler brought in three fish weighing 8.91 pounds, enough to win the Division by nearly one and one-half pounds.
The Co-Angler winner, Donny Diggs, fishing as a member of the Quickfire Bass- masters, not only had the winning overall weight, he also had the Co-Angler Division winning 5.11 pound largemouth. For the victory, Diggs received the minimum guaranteed one-day Co-Angler first prize of $1,250. He also received an additional $100 for his Co-Angler Division lunker.

Finishing a relatively distant second place was Diggs’ Quickfire club mate, Mike Wotanowski. Wotanowski only managed two keeper-sized fish on the day but his 7.48 pounds was enough to capture the second place prize of $425.

The third place Co-Angler, Kevin Collins, a TBF Affiliate, also brought two fish to the scales, weighing 7.06 pounds. Collins received $250.


Miscellaneous Notes
1. Only five anglers brought five fish limits to the scales and 90 fish totaling over 295 pounds were weighed in. The per fish average weight was an impressive 3.28 pounds. All fish were released alive.
2. As winners of the event, Jason Orecchio and Donny Diggs are eligible to compete at New Jersey’s District 15 2017 TBF National Semi-Final event so long as they compete in the remaining two Federation events.
3. By virtue of being the highest placing eligible Ranger Boat owner in the event, Mike Rinaldi will receive $250 in Ranger Cup bonus money.