The 41-year-old plumber from La Plata, Md., persevered on the near-freezing first day of the three-day event to claim the lead of the premier amateur bass fishing tournament in the world by more than 2 pounds.
If Waterman should hold on to the lead, he will qualify for the 2007 Bassmaster Classic and receive a prize package of $15,000 in cash in addition to a fully rigged Triton boat valued at $50,000.
Six qualifiers for the Feb. 23-25 Classic will be determined at this season-ending Federation Nation tournament; the top finisher from each of six geographic divisions will earn a Classic berth. Television coverage from the championship will air on ESPN2 Jan. 27 at 9 a.m. ET.
“I tried to stay warm out there,” Waterman said of his strategy. “A victory would mean everything to me here. This is what working to become a professional bass angler is all about.”
The Maryland BASS Federation Nation representative was the fourth angler to launch this morning, a luck of the draw that he said gave him time to travel to spots he had located in practice. Waterman said he attacked his main spot — a solitary stump that was surrounded by deep water — with a variety of crankbaits.
Despite his lead, Waterman was apprehensive about his starting position on Thursday, when competitors launch their boats in the inverse order of Wednesday’s positions.
“I hope to be able to get back to some of my spots tomorrow because I conserved a few of those areas knowing that the tournament would get tough,” Waterman said.
Trailing Waterman were Japan’s Shigeru Tsukiyama (16-13), Oklahoma’s Royce Dennington (15-12), and North Carolina’s Bryan Thrift (15-3) and Brent Long (15-0).
Leading after Wednesday in each of the six geographic divisions were Waterman (Mid-Atlantic), Terry McWilliams (Northern), Dennington (Central), Tsukiyama (Western), Scott Nadeau (Eastern) and Thrift (Southern).
One angler to watch is Dennington. The 39-year-old capitalized on a fortunate start.
“My day started out great,” the Oklahoma science teacher said. “The line broke as I was reeling in my first keeper and I grabbed the line before I lost the fish and hand-lined the fish into the boat.”
The BASS Federation Nation National Championship’s field of 54 includes Ivan Morris (8th), whose brother is Bassmaster Elite Series pro Rick Morris; 2006 Federation Nation Champion Anre De Villiers (15th); and former Classic competitor Joel St. Germain (33rd).
Sponsors of the Federation Nation include Toyota, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Evan Williams, KeelShield, Longhorn and Costa Del Mar.
BASS is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, sanctioning more than 20,000 events through the BASS Federation Nation annually. Guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans, BASS sets the standard for credibility, professionalism, sportsmanship and conservation, as it has for nearly 40 years.
BASS stages bass fishing tournaments for every skill level and culminates with the Bassmaster Classic. Through its clubs, youth programs, aquatic resource advocacy, magazine publishing and multimedia platforms, BASS offers the industry's widest array of services and support to its nearly 530,000 members. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit www.bassmaster.com.