Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer|
Hank Bussman, right, of Hartselle watches as BASS tournament official Jim Howard ensures the fish are alive during the weigh-in at Ingalls Harbor in Decatur on Friday afternoon. The two-day Alabama BASS Federation Nation state championship concludes Saturday.
Hartselle angler happy hooking
Bussman, 65, aims for top-7 finish in BASS tourney
By Paul Stackhouse
Ingalls Harbor was a busy place Friday as 155 bass anglers took to the waters of Wheeler Lake with hopes of becoming the Alabama BASS Federation Nation state champion.
Hank Bussman of Hartselle, who belongs to the Lake Guntersville Bassmasters Club, brought a five-bass limit weighing in a 7.45 pounds to the scales.
That weight didn't send his name to the top of the leaderboard, but for Bussman, that's quite all right.
Bussman, 65, came to Hartselle in 1989 from Indiana and became a member of the BASS Federation Nation in 1991.
"I had never bass fished before, well, not seriously anyway," Bussman said. "A few years after starting bass fishing (1997), I had a double-hernia operation, and they found a spot on my left lung and told me I had cancer. I was told I wouldn't make it, but I've proved them wrong. I'm still kicking and enjoying every minute of it. Just last week, I had an MRI done, and they told me that I'm still cancer-free."
Bussman says bass fishing is part of his retirement after working more than 33 years for Chrysler.
He drives a lunch van for Decatur City Schools.
"When I retired, my wife, Bessie, knew how much I enjoyed bass fishing," Bussman said.
"We had a ski boat, and she wanted me to get a bass boat because she knew how much I loved bass fishing. We've been married now for 47 years."
In the tournament this week at Ingalls, Bussman said he is casting with hopes of being one of the top seven anglers in the event.
"The top seven get to move on to regionals, and that's just one step closer to making the Bassmaster Classic," Bussman said. "I didn't have that great of a day, but it wasn't a bad day by any means. I fished scattered grass with spinnerbaits and plastics, plastic worms to be exact. I don't know what I'm going to do Saturday."
The final weigh-in begins at 2 p.m. Saturday with the champion crowned after the scales are closed.
Two anglers fish from one boat, and they have four hours to run the front of the boat (trolling motor) and go where they wish to fish.
"Whether I make the top seven or not, that's OK," Bussman said. "I'm just happy to be here. I guess I'll be fishing until the day they take my driver license away from me, and after that I may still find a way to sneak some time in."
After Friday's weigh-in, Ashley Stanford of Russellville with the Belgreen Bass Club leads the pack with 13.87 pounds. He also leads in the big fish category with a 4.87 pound bass.
In second place is Jonathan Edwards of Tennessee with the Alabama-Tennessee Bass Club, who brought five fish totalling 13.52 pounds to the scales. Following Edwards is Rickie Harp of Cottondale with the Lake Tuscaloosa Bass Club with 12.30 pounds. Harp brought a bass that weighed 4.85 pounds to the scales, knocking him out of the day one big bass category by two-hundredths of a pound.
The first-place winner earns $3,000, while second place pays $1,500 and third place $1,000. The team with the most weight wins $1,000 for its club, and the big bass of the tournament is worth $1,000.
Alabama BASS Federation Nation Championship
Friday’s action on Wheeler Lake
First-day leader: Ashley Stanford of Russellville with 13.87 pounds.
First-day big fish: Stanford with 4.87 pound bass.
Weigh-in: 2 p.m., Ingalls Harbor.
Prize money: First place, $3,000; second place, $1,500; third place, $1,000; most weight as team, $1,000; big fish, $1,000.
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