2021 Ray Scott Championship
The Best Weekend Bass Anglers Battle at Legendary Lake
By John N. Felsher
ATHENS, Ala. -- After a year of grueling competition in diverse habitats and all kinds of weather, not to mention facing a global pandemic, nearly 300 of the best weekend bass anglers in the nation battle for prizes and bragging rights at the 2021 Ray Scott Championship.
The action begins on April 14 at the Dayton Boat Ramp on Richland Creek, located at 175 Lakeshore Street in Dayton, Tenn. The anglers will fish the 36,240-acre Lake Chickamauga, one of the hottest lakes in the country for giant bass. After four days of intense competition, the championship tournament will end on Saturday, April 17, with the crowning of boater and co-angler champions.
“We are very excited to bring the Ray Scott Championship to Lake Chickamauga and Dayton, Tenn.,” remarked Morris Sheehan, president of the American Bass Anglers. “All ABA anglers have heard about the great fishing this lake has, and now they have an opportunity to experience it firsthand. I want to thank the city of Dayton and Rhea County for hosting this event and being a partner with American Bass Anglers in this production.”
Called the “Super Bowl of ABA,” the annual Ray Scott Championship caps off another season of the Bass Pro Shop Open Series, presented by American Bass Anglers. Throughout 2020, anglers from ABA divisions across the country battled in local tournaments and championships to qualify for the Ray Scott Championship, named for the Father of Competitive Bass fishing and a fishing legend.
“The Ray Scott Championship is the culmination of the entire 2020 Bass Pro Shop Open Series season,” commented Christopher Wayand, tournament manager. “The anglers competed in four events in their divisions against all the state anglers, plus an area championship with another division geographically closest to theirs. After that fifth tournament, the top points earners emerged. Only the top 10 points holders from each division received an invitation to come fish this tournament here.”
The anglers compete in two divisions -- boater and co-angler. Boaters and co-anglers share the same boats, but they do not participate as a team. Boaters compete against boaters, and co-anglers compete against co-anglers.
The champion boater will receive $50,000 in cash plus a new fully-equipped Triton 21TRX bass boat powered by a Mercury outboard, a trailer, a T-H Marine Hot Foot, and a certificate worth $1,000 toward the purchase of Garmin Electronics. The entire package retails for about $65,000. Bryan D. New of Belmont, N.C. won the 2019 Ray Scott Championship as a boater and now fishes the Bassmaster Elite Series.
The winning co-angler will receive $25,000 in cash plus a new fully-equipped Triton 19TRX bass boat with a Mercury outboard, a trailer, a T-H Marine Hot Foot and a certificate worth $1,000 toward the purchase of Garmin Electronics. The co-angler boat package retails for about $45,000.
The top 20 percent of the boaters and co-anglers will also each receive cash prizes, depending upon how high they place in the standings. Anglers in both divisions could possibly win bonus money and prizes from ABA sponsors.
Some anglers already received awards. Before the tournament began, ABA honored the Anglers of the Year from each of the divisions with a banquet. See below for a list of names.
“The Angler of the Year banquet recognized the top boater and co-angler points holders from each of the 18 divisions across the country,” Wayand explained. “Besides getting an opportunity to fish the Ray Scott Championship, those anglers will each receive free entry fees to the division of their choice for 2021 season. We have 148 boaters and 140 co-anglers competing in the championship tournament this year.”
The entire field fishes for the first two days of the tournament. On the third day, only the top 50 percent of boaters and co-anglers compete. For the final day, only the top 25 in each category fish. The weigh-in begins at 2:30 p.m. each of the first three days. On the final day, the weigh-in begins at 2 p.m. The public is invited to each of the weigh-ins.
Named for the Chickamauga Cherokee who used to live in the area, Lake Chickamauga snakes for about 60 miles along the Tennessee River between the Watts Bar Dam and the Chickamauga Dam. The Chickamauga tribe broke away from the Cherokee and lived along Chickamauga Creek, which flows into the main river just below the dam. Chickamauga Lake sits immediately downstream from Watts Bar Lake and immediately upstream from Nickajack Lake. The watershed drains 20,790 square miles.
A legendary bass lake, Lake Chickamauga drops to 72 feet deep in places and offers anglers 810 shoreline miles. The Hiwassee River flows into Lake Chickamauga at Hiwassee Island, just north of the Highway 60 bridge. Several creeks also flow into the system.
The Tennessee River impoundment dates to 1940, but only recently earned bass legend status after the state of Tennessee began stocking Florida largemouths into it in 2000. In the past few years, the lake delivered many lunkers in in the 10- to 14-pound range. In 2015, Gabe Keen landed a 15-pound, 3-ounce bucketmouth, setting a new Tennessee state record.
Lake Chickamauga also produced the Tennessee record spotted bass, a 6-pound, 1-ounce fish. The lake also holds some giant smallmouth. The lake could produce a new record for those species on any cast. According to Tennessee state law, largemouth bass must measure at least 15 inches long and smallmouth at least 18 inches long.
“Chickamauga is a well-known bass lake that has been producing a lot of huge fish lately,” Wayand advised. “It’s one of the top bass lakes in the nation. I’ve heard of some big ones caught recently. On Monday, April 12, the water temperature was about 58 to 59 degrees. By the end of the week, the temperature could be in the mid-60s. Many bass already moved up into the shallows for the spawn. We could see some prespawn fish as well as bedding fish. I predict we’ll see a lot of sight fishing for bedding bass and finesse fishing just off the shorelines in about four to six feet of water.”
The Dayton Boat Ramp sits in Rhea County near the middle of the serpentine lake. Rhea County is about 30 miles north of Chattanooga, 70 miles south of Knoxville and 110 miles east of Nashville. For area information, see visit rheaecd.com.
American Bass Anglers commitment is to provide low cost, close to home tournaments for the weekend angler and at the same time offer each competitor an upward path for individual angler progression. For more information about American Bass Anglers visit www.americanbassanglers.com or call (256) 232-0406.
American Bass Anglers is sponsored by Bass Pro Shops, Triton Boats, Mercury Motors, Motor Guide, Berkley, Abu Garcia, T-H Marine, Power Pole, Garmin, Monster Energy, Lucas Oil, Engel Coolers, OPTIMA Batteries, REKS Sunglasses, and HotelPlanner.com.
2020 ABA Anglers of the Year
Kent Keys, Boater
David Marr, Co-angler
Marty Torrence, Boater
Michael Cooper, Co-angler
Dillion Falardeau, Boater
Chris Seese, Co-angler
Mickey Beck, Boater
Jake Short, Co-angler
Ethan Greene, Boater
Danny Truelove, Co-angler
Grant Kelly, Boater
Robert Enke, Co-angler
Chad Poteat, Boater
Barry Burford, Co-angler
Greg Rikard, Boater
Jeffery Rikard, Co-angler
Keith Carson, Boater
Hunter Kaiser, Co-angler
Chris Crow, Boater
Jose Gallardo, Co-angler
Brandon Pedigo, Boater
Thomas Helsley, Co-angler
Jesse Russell, Boater
Stephen English, Co-angler
George Simonof, Boater
Ted Daniels, Co-angler
Nick Kincaid, Boater
Al Longoria, Co-angler
Kermit Crowder, Boater
David Williams, Co-angler
Tim Wiltfong, Boater
Glenn Eskin, Co-angler
Brett Carnright, Boater
Andrew Pruitt, Co-angler
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