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Inside Events: Big Bass Zone Junior Championship

27 Apr, 2020

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
An Interview with Bill Siemantel, Tournament Director

thebbz.com

The BBZ Junior Championship is a grass-roots big bass tournament held online, which allows young competitors the opportunity to fish from anywhere and on their schedule. There is no need for expensive equipment, as anglers only need a camera or phone and an e-mail address to register their catch. SDM caught up with Bill Siemantel, tournament director, to find out about how the event is reeling in young anglers during quarantine (and all other times).

Sports Destination Management: The Big Bass Zone Junior Championship is seeing some good action. How long has it been running?

Bill Siemantel: The BBZ JC as it currently stands began January 1, 2019, but was actually “brought back to life” from an older tournament from the early to mid-90s. In less than 10 months, anglers entered from all states except Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, West Virginia and Hawaii.

SDM: How does it work?

Siemantel: The BBZ Junior Championship is a grass-roots big bass tournament held online, which allows young competitors the opportunity to fish from anywhere and on their schedule. There is no need for expensive equipment, as anglers only need a camera or phone and an email address to register their catch.

To participate, anglers simply register online at bbzworld.com. Registration fees are $25 for a single state or $50 to fish nationally in any state except Alaska. Once a bass is caught, the angler takes a photo of the fish on an official ruler (both length and girth) and submits the catch online. The angler who catches the biggest fish in his or her state by August 1, 2020 will qualify for a championship event to be held October 2-3 at the beautiful Willows Club by Anglers Inn International in Priest River, Idaho, with competition on the Pend Oreille River.”

SDM: Has it gotten a lot of interest and participation?

Siemantel: At the 2019 finals, there were 46 anglers from 44 states that entered and registered a bass, and over $370,000 in prizes were given back to the youth. The 2020 BBZ JC already has young anglers registered from 42 states, and anglers from 25 states are already catching and registering their fish!

SDM: Are you seeing participation this year?

Siemantel: Yes… and at a faster rate from last year with fish registrations. 

SDM: What do anglers have to do in order to participate?

To participate, anglers simply register online at bbzworld.com. Registration fees are $25 for a single state or $50 to fish nationally in any state except Alaska. Once a bass is caught, the angler takes a photo of the fish on an official ruler (both length and girth) and submits the catch online. The angler who catches the biggest fish in his or her state by August 1, 2020 will qualify for a championship event to be held October 2-3 at the beautiful Willows Club by Anglers Inn International in Priest River, Idaho with competition on the Pend Oreille River.

SDM: How can fishing destinations be helping to promote this while people are doing the social distance thing?

Siemantel: While some states are asking for a lockdown, others are still promoting the benefits of getting outside for good mental health, and sunlight and exercise as the best medicine. There are thousands of lakes, streams, ponds and reservoirs within most people's zip codes, keeping them close to home and away from large gatherings. This helps promote solitary social distancing.

For example, Arkansas just waived fees for fishing licenses, recommending that people spend time fishing as a practical way to observe social distancing for health and safety while enjoying the outdoors in Arkansas during the coronavirus pandemic.

SDM: Do you think it raises awareness of fishing as a fun sport?

Siemantel: Yes, this does! This virtual tournament can truly open the floodgates for bass fishing and help to capture an audience that has been just sitting on the sidelines waiting for someone to give them a little hope. Fishing is a fun sport and there are millions of young anglers doing it, but no one has looked at them yet. They have been left behind by not competing in traditional tournaments.    

SDM: Do you think it raises awareness of destinations and bodies of water that host fishing?

Siemantel: You bet!  Just ask anyone in Idaho now about the 2019 tournament. It captures not only the very few high school club anglers that already travel, but is an opportunity to promote new destinations where the BBZ final will be held to a new audience and their families.    

SDM: Do you think it can lead to more anglers in the future, when traditional tournaments resume?

Siemantel: Yes, yes, yes! Before tournaments were postponed because of Covid-19, I had anglers qualifying to represent their states in the BBZ Junior Championship while pre-fishing tournaments. But there are also thousands of young anglers who do not have a bass boat to fish at the club level. This is a simple, inexpensive opportunity to engage anyone who likes to fish and give them an opportunity to win scholarship money, trips or that bass boat. If local clubs will reach out and mentor the young anglers participating in the BBZJC, that can lead to astronomical growth in the sport.

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