South African Varkevisser Grabs Lead At B.A.S.S. Nation Championship On Lake Hartwell

Justy Varkevisser missed the cut in his eight previous trips to the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Championship.

The South African broke the trend — with emphasis — on his ninth try.

Varkevisser caught a five-bass limit Thursday that weighed 10 pounds, 15 ounces. Coupled with his Day 1 total of 11-6, he not only made the cut, but he grabbed the lead heading into the final day of the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Championship on Lake Hartwell.

Varkevisser is fishing offshore and targeting spotted bass on this 56,000-acre fishery in the northwest corner of the Palmetto State. He only had six bites Thursday, but the five bass he caught were good enough to vault him to the top of the leaderboard.

“It’s been a very slow catching process for me,” Varkevisser said. “I’m trying to capitalize on the slightly bigger fish, but it’s been a bit of a nerve-wracking situation because you’re not sure you’re going to going to get your limit. The windows of opportunity come along, and you have to make sure you take advantage of them when they come.”

He’s hoping he can make the most of his chances Friday, too, now that he’s finally in position to win a B.A.S.S. Nation Championship.

“I’m very excited,” said Varkevisser “I’ve been trying to make the cut in this tournament for many years. It’s an awesome accomplishment for me.”

Varkevisser is one of 12 anglers in the field of 115 that survived the cut and will fish Friday’s final round. The three anglers with the heaviest overall totals will qualify for the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk, which is set for March 6-8 on Lake Guntersville and Birmingham in Alabama.

The overall leader on Friday also will receive an invitation to fish the 2020 Bassmaster Elite Series and paid entry into the Bassmaster Opens division of the angler’s choice.

The final-round group is composed of Tennessee’s Nobuyuki Terajima, second place, 21-5; Montana’s Tim Johnston, third, 21-1; Australia’s Matthew Langford, fourth, 21-1; New Hampshire’s Cam Sterritt, 20-11; Idaho’s Taylor Smith, sixth, 20-8; South Dakota’s Brock Belik, seventh, 19-12; Washington’s Kelly Kellogg, eighth, 19-2; Portugal’s Pedro Rodrigues, ninth, 19-1; and Oregon’s Cody Hollen, 10th, 19-0.

They are joined by nonboater champion Stanley Beebe of California and Greg Alexander of Team Delaware, who finished 13th overall in the boater field. Alexander made the cut by virtue of finishing in second place among tournament anglers who qualified through the Eastern Regional.

B.A.S.S. Nation rules dictate that the top two boaters from each region make the cut if they don’t finish in the Top 10 heading into the final day of the Championship. Seven of the Top 10 making the cut qualified for the Championship via the Western Regional, two qualified in the Central Regional and one came from the Eastern Regional.

Beebe, who hails from San Luis Obispo, Calif., won the nonboater division of the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship with a two-day total of 17-13 He caught 6-13 Wednesday and 11-0 a day later.

Beebe’s 11-pound sack was the second-heaviest caught by a nonboater in the tournament. He fished Thursday with Sterritt, who caught the biggest bag of the tournament (13-8).

Beebe collected a $10,000 Skeeter/Yamaha cash award and entry into the 2020 Bassmaster Opens division of his choice.

“We were just on them all day long,” Beebe said. “I thought everyone would be on them with the way we were catching. I thought I had about nine pounds, so I feel pretty lucky. I made a last-minute cull that probably gave me an extra pound.”

New Mexico’s Brad Hauf finished second in the nonboater division with 17-8.

Scott Perrine, a nonboater from Bonneau, S.C., maintained the lead for the Phoenix Boats Big Bass Award with the 6-1 he caught Wednesday. The angler who catches the heaviest bass of the tournament will collect $1,000. Anglers from 47 states and 11 foreign countries are competing on Lake Hartwell this week for a total of $140,300 in prize money.

Takeoff and weigh-in for the final round will be held Friday at Green Pond Landing in Anderson, S.C. Visit Anderson is hosting.