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Zach Messer
Wins Junior National Championship
Using CB's Hawg Sauce

Zach Messer did more than just reel in the big one; the angler won the National Guard The Bass Federation Junior World Championship, for the 15- to 18-year-old bracket on Saturday in Kittanning, Pa., while fishing the Allegheny River.

"My goal this year was to win this tournament, and this is the biggest tournament I could win," said Messer. "It was an awesome experience to have the opportunity to fish with the professionals. The sponsors and the FLW (Outdoors) treated us great, and we had a lot of fun."

The conditions were less than ideal, but the 16-year-old, who will be a junior this fall at South Aiken High School, didn't let that deter his performance on Friday, as he was one of six anglers to return on Saturday in his bracket and one of 12 junior fisherman overall to qualify for Saturday's finals.

The competition started off with 80 anglers, 40 in the 15-18 bracket and 40 in the 11-14 bracket, said Messer. He won a $5,000 scholarship, $500 Big Fish award and a $1,500 sponsorship with Berkley for placing in the top three.

"The Allegheny River system came up four feet Thursday night. It was a tough current, and you were only able to see down two or three feet," said Messer. "It made the competition tougher, and you had to work for all your bites on the river. The current was really strong."

Messer, who moved to Aiken from Idaho last August, flew out to Idaho in June after the school year ended and qualified for the tournament in his former home state.

The anglers were restricted to five fish, and Messer caught a 6-pound, 7-ounce smallmouth bass to seal the victory.

The angler used a Pflueger President reel and a Berkley Trilene Professional Grade 100 percent Fluorocarbon 10-pound test line during the tournament.

His greatest success in catching the fish came by two drainage pipes that the water was flowing into, said Messer. There were rocks on each side of the drainage pipes, which created a ditch. The fish were sitting in the ditch trying to get out of the current, and he cast upstream. In an effort to imitate a crawfish, Messer used a Dry Creek Outfitters 3-inch tube lure, craw colored, with a quarter-ounce jig head.

"We'd hop the crawfish, move it in short, little distances, one or two inches, and it looked like a floating crawfish, and that's what the smallmouth bass feed on in the river," said Messer. "The fish rely on smell, and I used CB's Hawg Sauce, and that helped in being able to find the fish with the low visibility."

His follow-up presentation, in the event the smallmouth bass didn't take the crawfish lure was to throw in a Berkley 4-inch power worm that was black in color, he said.

Messer had an opportunity to fish with professional anglers Chip Harrison the first day and Tim Klinger the second day. His partner was Daryk Eckert of Stockport, Ohio, who was champion in the 11-14 bracket.

Messer's family also played a large role in his success. He started fishing at age 3, said his mother Cindy, and took part in his first tournament when he was in the seventh grade.

"I wouldn't be here without my family; they helped get me to Idaho and here," said Zach, who was accompanied to the tournament by his father. "They were a big help. It makes you realize how good of a family you have. Winning the championship is awesome. It makes you want to do well in school and go to college. I want to learn the business side of fishing and learn how to market myself. I want to thank my sponsors, Berkley, Pier Fishing, Dry Creek Outfitters and FlipClip and the National Guard for putting on the tournament and making it what it is."