Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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Pa. man qualifies for Bassmaster Classic

Deborah Weisberg

Southwest Correspondent

Pittsburgh – Ken Baumgardner, of Monongahela, is heading to the
2009 Bassmaster Classic on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier
City, La., Feb. 20-22.

A member of the Road Warriors Bassmasters, Baumgardner, 49,
qualified for the $500,000 event by finishing first in the
Mid-Atlantic division at the BASS Federation Nation Championship
out of Junction City, Kan., Nov. 8. His winning weight was 6
pounds, 2 ounces during two days of windy, cold conditions.

He will compete in the Classic as one of six amateurs among 51
professional anglers. Only one amateur has ever won the Classic in
its 37-year history.

“This is the big time – I’m excited,” said Baumgardner, who
out-fished close to 1,700 other regional anglers over the past two
years to secure the prestigious berth. “I don’t want to just fish
the Classic. I want to win it.”

To that end, he plans to pre-fish the Red River for 10 days
before the cutoff, Dec. 15, and to talk to Louisiana locals “up to
the point we can’t do it anymore.” He’ll also look to the Internet
for clues about the fishery he’s about to tackle.

And while he said he’s aware of the odds against winning,
neither the Red River nor the star-studded competition fazes him.
“I’ve fished pro tournaments before,” he said. “I fish some of the
(BASS) northern division opens. I know a lot of the pros. I knew
them before they turned pro – Dave Wolack, Dave LeFebre, T. J.
Kenney.”

As for the Red River, he said, “the shallow, muddy waters in the
South can intimidate you until you get on them; then it’s not a big
deal.”

A warehouseman for a gas company, Baumgardner includes among his
home waters western Pennsylvania’s three rivers – the Allegheny,
Ohio and Monongahela – where the record-setting, low-weight 2005
Classic was held. “I’m on the rivers fishing about twice a week,”
he said from his deer hunting camp in mid-November. “My strength is
pitching and flipping jigs.”

The Bassmaster Classic is a dream-come-true for most serious
club fishermen. Baumgardner made it as far as the BASS Nationals –
the club championship – one year and missed qualifying for the
Classic by just 2 ounces.

“It’s very hard to get to that level of competition when you’re
not fishing full-time and have to fit it into your work schedule,”
said D.J. Bishop, who lives near Pittsburgh and has competed
against Baumgardner in club tournaments locally for the past 15
years.

“Ken’s one of the top-five anglers from around here you need to
beat if you want to make it even to the state championship.

“He’s a calm, cool, collected guy who will fare well against the
pros,” predicted Bishop, who has had a taste of the pros himself,
from fishing opens and co-angling in Bassmaster Elite Series
events. “Ken’ll do well with the media attention. It’ll be real
hoot for him.”

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