Idaho's McFarland wins TBF Western Divisional

Washington wins coveted state title and top cash award

MOSES LAKE, Wash. – Fourteen anglers from seven states earned a slot in the 2008 TBF National Championship today on the final day of the TBF Western Divisional presented by the National Guard. Held on Potholes Reservoir in Washington, the ultimate victor was Eric McFarland of Meridian, Idaho, with a three-day total weight of 49 pounds, 1 ounce. The weight also propelled McFarland to the top of the Idaho state team.

McFarland’s catch toppled Ronald Hobbs Jr. of Graham, Wash., who led the overall field the first two days of the tournament but ultimately finished second overall with 48 pounds over three days. Hobbs will represent the state of Washington as a boater at the TBF National Championship because he finished first on his state team.

Each of the seven states represented at this week’s Western Divisional will send the top two competitors from their state to the national championship, with the No. 1 competitor from each state advancing as a boater and the No. 2 competitor advancing as a co-angler. McFarland advanced from the Idaho state team and will be joined by Brandon Palaniuk of Rathdrum, Idaho, who will compete at the national championship as a co-angler.

Winning the coveted state title is the Washington team with 411 pounds, 13 ounces of bass over three days.Twelve competitors were sent from each state to this week’s divisional, and in the competition among the states, Washington came out on top, taking home the traveling cup as well as the $3,600 top cash award. (At TBF divisional events, money is awarded to the winning state, not the overall winning angler.) The 12 Washington competitors brought in 411 pounds, 13 ounces of bass over three days to top No. 2 California, the Western defending state champ, the members of which caught 398 pounds, 9 ounces of bass over three days. As the No. 2 state, California earned $2,400, and Idaho took home $1,200 as the third-place state.

As the winner, McFarland earned a $500 Wal-Mart gift card as the Castrol Maximum Performer.

McFarland fished consistent tournament to land on top

Western Divisional champ Eric McFarland shows his trophy to the crowd.McFarland was No. 2 in the overall standings the first two days and moved up to first on the final day thanks to a solid week that saw him consistently catch bass each day. He brought in 17 pounds, 15 ounces on day one and followed that up with 15 pounds, 15 ounces on day two, and he closed the deal today with a limit of five bass that weighed 15 pounds, 3 ounces that brought his three-day total to a winning 49 pounds, 1 ounce.

“The amount of time and effort that you have to put into it … it’s really emotional,” McFarland said after claiming the victory. “It takes a lot of sacrificing from my wife, Wendy, to get where I am. This was a wonderful experience, and to put it together, it’s a lifelong dream.”

McFarland had to overcome stiff competition from his fellow Idaho team members to not only win the overall competition but his state as well. McFarland ended day two with a 1-pound, 2-ounce lead heading into the final day – not a solid cushion considering three of the 12 Idaho anglers ultimately ended up in the final top 10.

This week, boaters and non-boaters were paired together and were expected to share front-of-boat fishing time. McFarland, competing as a boater out of his own rig, extended the hand of sportsmanship today to his day-three non-boater partner, Wayne Crowder of Salt Lake City, Utah, and ultimately thought it might cost him the overall victory.

“I got a limit of five bass, and my partner had one fish,” McFarland said. “I said, ‘You get the next bed fish.’ We rolled into a cove, and he made one cast and caught her – a 5-pounder. That fish may have cost me.”

It didn’t. Ultimately, McFarland fished a clean tournament he can be proud of.

“That’s something you would never do at an FLW Tour event,” he said. “But here, you have to be a team player. All my partners caught fish off my spots.”

McFarland said he caught his bass today using a Berkley Triple Pour drop-shot shaker worm on 16-pound-test line with a 1/2-ounce sinker.

“I was going for largies,” said McFarland, who, like pretty much everyone else, was sight-fishing. “My area was getting worked over by more boats today.”

McFarland, who also competes in the Wal-Mart FLW Series and the Stren Series as a pro, says this is his second year trying to qualify for the TBF National Championship. He will be making his first appearance there.

Hobbs settles for second overall, wins Washington title

Winning the Washington state title and claiming second overall is Ronald Hobbs Jr. with 48 pounds of bass over three days.Day-one and day-two leader Ronald Hobbs Jr. of Graham, Wash., led the Washington state team to an overall state victory thanks to his three-day total of 48 pounds. Hobbs fell from first today but not far – he took second place overall after a tough day three. Hobbs will represent Washington at the TBF National Championship as a boater, while the No. 2 Washington angler, Andy Smith of Buckley, Wash., will advance as a co-angler.

“We duked it out on the front deck all day,” said Hobbs, who competed as a boater today with partner Neil Russell of Nampa, Idaho, who was a serious contender from the Idaho state team. Russell ultimately finished third in his state. “I feel bad for Neil. He needed another fish, but we just couldn’t do it.”

Hobbs was No. 1 overall yesterday and Russell was fourth, meaning both anglers had a lot on the line today.

“It was tough,” Hobbs said. “We were trying to get him on the team, and I was trying to win (overall). It was tough when both of us were contending, and it got slower today for us. We both fished the front of the boat all day, which was different.”

Hobbs said the pair cruised around, looking for bedding bass, but found that a lot of them had been picked through during three days of competition.

“There were a lot less fish around,” Hobbs said. “The ones that were around were hard to catch. I had four smallmouths and one largemouth, and Neil had five smallmouths. It was rough, because I really wanted to fish for largemouths, but he was entitled to fish half the day, and he wanted to go for smallmouths.”

Hobbs caught his bass on a variety of baits, including a shaky head and a Reaction Innovations Flirt. Many this week came by drop-shotting a Panic Minnow using 6-pound line.

Though Hobbs did not claim the overall victory, the light at the end of the tunnel is very bright. He will be fishing the championship as a boater, and the top six boater finishers at that event will advance to the 2008 Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League All-American. The winning boater at the national championship will claim a spot in the 2008 Forrest Wood Cup, where the pro field will compete for a winning prize of as much as $1 million cash.

“It’s exciting,” he said. “I’m honored. I just can’t wait. It’s a great opportunity.”

Erickson third overall, wins Arizona

Jeff Erickson took the Arizona state title and third place overall thanks to his three-day catch of 48 pounds.Taking the No. 1 spot on the Arizona state team and third overall is Jeff Erickson of Phoenix with a three-day total of 48 pounds. He had his best day yet today, bringing in a limit that weighed 16 pounds, 13 ounces that ultimately defeated the No. 2 Arizona angler, Ben Gross, by nearly 4 pounds. Erickson will advance to the national championship as a boater while Gross will advance as a co-angler.

“I was doing the same thing in the same places,” Erickson said of his day-three strategy. “Fortunately, more largemouths kept pulling up on those flats.”

Erickson was sight-fishing exclusively, and while that pattern ultimately proved fruitful, he, like many, lost a few fish in the process.

“I’m fortunate to get the ones I got,” said Erickson, who competed this week as a non-boater. “I was doing a little bit different stuff than most other guys. I was able to get up on them and finesse them with small worms.”

The prevalent sight-fishing strategy involved making long casts to the beds from a good distance back to avoid spooking the fish.

“This was my first year in the Federation,” Erickson said. “I loved it.”

Krost wins California, fifth overall

The California team had three leaders in three days, but Ryan Krost led when it mattered most, winning the California title and taking fifth overall with a combined weight of 45-12.The state of California had a different leader each of the three days of this event, and the ultimate champion from that state is Ryan Krost of Canyon Lake, Calif., with a combined catch weighing 45 pounds, 12 ounces. He caught the heaviest stringer of the tournament today, a limit that weighed 18 pounds, 13 ounces, that ultimately put him on top by a near 2-pound margin. His heaviest bass clocked in at 4 pounds, 7 ounces.

“The first day, I caught all smallmouth bedfishing,” Krost said. “The last two days were all bedfish, but they were largemouths. I caught them up in the dunes. It was tough at first, but I figured it out, and it got better and better.”

Krost said the key to his success was covering as much water as he could. He caught his bass on shaky-head worms and will be making his second consecutive national championship appearance. He finished 23rd on the co-angler side less than a month ago at the 2007 TBF National Championship on North Carolina’s Lake Wylie.

Krost will compete at the 2008 championship as a boater, and the No. 2 California angler, Justin Lucas of Folsom, Calif., will compete as a co-angler.

No. 6 Russell claims Wyoming title

Samuel Russell will be making a return trip to the TBF National Championship, as he won the Wyoming state title and took sixth overall with 44 pounds, 14 ounces over three days.Samuel Russell of Salt Lake City, Utah, caught 44 pounds, 14 ounces of bass this week competing as a boater to claim the No. 1 spot on the Wyoming state team and sixth place overall. Russell will be making his second consecutive appearance at the TBF National Championship as a boater – he took 33rd on the boater side at this year’s championship.

“I had one of the most fun days,” Russell said on stage. “On my fifth cast, I had that big smallmouth, and it was fish after fish after that.”

Russell’s smooth day three, in which he caught a limit weighing 16 pounds, 3 ounces, his heaviest of the tournament, enabled him to rise to the top of the Wyoming standings, where he had sat in second the previous two days.

“It went great,” Russell said. “I made all the right moves. I had four rods on my deck, and that was all I needed. I caught 12 or 14 fish today.”

Russell was catching them on a 4-inch Zoom finesse worm on a Bite Me jighead, casting it to the bluff walls and rock banks for bedding smallmouths.

“We went to the back for largemouths on a short drop-shot rig with a 3/8-ounce weight and a fat Roboworm Prism Shad,” he said. “I would see the bass cruising around, and I would basically just irritate him. I lost a few fish, but it worked out well for me.”

Taking second on the Wyoming state team and advancing to the national championship as a co-angler is Ron Jacobson of Victor, Idaho, with 38 pounds, 7 ounces over three days.

Gibney takes Oregon title in dominant fashion

With a three-day catch of 42 pounds, 14 ounces, Michael Gibney won the Oregon state title by a 7-pound, 11-ounce margin.Winning the Oregon state team by a 7-pound, 11-ounce margin is Michael Gibney of Troutdale, Ore., who has led his state team all week. Gibney competed this week as a non-boater, making his dominant performance all the more remarkable.

“We started smallmouth fishing this morning, which is what I’ve done every morning,” Gibney said. “I was only able to catch one, so we went largemouth fishing. I lost a 4-pounder, and I thought that was it.”

It wasn’t. Gibney and his day-three boater partner, Chad Kaiser of Rathdrum, Idaho, then went back to the smallmouth hole, and things lit up from there.

“They were still on beds,” Gibney said. “I was able to catch four, and with an hour left, we ran into the dunes, and I caught a 3-pounder. That felt good.”

Gibney has competed in the TBF National Championship twice and will be joined by the No. 2 Oregon angler Terry Ballard of Boring, Ore., at this year’s event. Gibney advances as a boater while Ballard advances as a co-angler.

Hartline wins Utah by 4 pounds, 3 ounces

Winning the Utah title is Craig Hartline with 38 pounds, 9 ounces over three days.Taking the No. 1 spot on the Utah state team is Craig Hartline of Lake Powell, Utah, with 38 pounds, 9 ounces of bass over three days. Advancing from Utah as a co-angler to the national championship is No. 2 Tyler Swaney of Craig, Colo., with 34-6 over three days.

“I had three great boaters, and they ran me around the lake,” said Hartline, who competed with boater Jim Brinkerhoff of Longview, Wash., today. “We worked the islands for smallies, and then we tried to upgrade with bedfish.”

With Brinkerhoff not really in contention on the Oregon team, he allowed Hartline to rule the day, which in turn handed Hartline a state win and a boater championship berth.

“Today was a little easier, because I was in the front of the boat most of the day,” Hartline said. “(Brinkerhoff) let me get my fish. It really worked well, as the Federation should. I’m a boater normally, and it’s harder to really get out and look for bedded fish as a non-boater.”

Hartline caught his bass using a drop-shot and a Senko, which he says caught a lot of bedding fish. This will be his first national championship appearance.