CHARLOTTE -- Brian Travis left no doubt in capping off a championship fishing weekend Saturday. The Conover, N.C., angler topped a national field by netting 15 fish weighing 45 pounds 9 ounces to win The Bass Federation National Championship on Lake Wylie.
"This is an unbelievable feeling, a dream come true," said Travis, who fishes the Southern Division and Lake Wylie on a regular basis.
Travis brought in the heaviest bag each of the three days of competition, winning by almost seven pounds. He also brought several family members on the hourlong trip from Conover to join the crowd of fans at the Charlotte Convention Center each day.
"We were hoping that he'd do well, and when he came in that first day with 14 pounds, 14 ounces, we had all the confidence in the world that he was going to win," said father Olie Travis.
Travis took home a $100,000 prize package that includes entry into the $1 million Wal-Mart Bass Fishing All-American and the $2 million Forrest Wood Cup. Travis called his win "the best executed tournament that I have ever fished."
"I had a good feeling that this was my time to win," Travis said.
Travis fished a Lake Wylie event earlier this month, and is familiar with local waters.
"He's always done well on Wylie," his father said. "It's not a local lake, but it's kind of local. He's been fishing it every chance he gets. He likes it, and he's always done well."
Another semi-local angler took advantage of the Lake Wylie location as Craig Fredrychowski of Lexington boated 14 bass weighing 26 pounds, 11 ounces to win the co-angler competition, complete with a $10,000 prize package and entry into the All-American and Forrest Wood Cup.
"It absolutely means the world to me," Fredrychowski said. "This is just the start of something good."
The TBF National Championship was not the only show in Charlotte this weekend, though. The FLW National Guard Open, fished on Lake Norman, also weighed in at the Convention Center and even included a few Lake Wylie ties.
On Lake Norman, Gastonia's Chris Baumgardner finished 10th in the FLW National Guard Open by reeling in 18 fish weighing 39 pounds, 12 ounces. Baumgardner walked away with $20,000 for his finish, but he did even more to help David Hudson of Jasper, Ala.
Hudson, who won the co-angler division with 15 fish weighing 17 pounds, 8 ounces, credited pro-partner Baumgardner with helping him reel in the top co-angler catch on the final day.
"Chris Baumgardner was great today," said Hudson, who won $30,000 for his finish plus a $10,000 Ranger Boat bonus and an invite to the Forrest Wood Cup. "He gave me two fish. He turned the boat around and let me catch one."
More local flavor came with fourth-place co-angler finisher. Dierdre Davison of Tega Cay, the only woman fishing the event, boated 15 fish weighing 25 pounds, 12 ounces.
"It's been an amazing week," Davison said.
With only a handful of events under her belt since beginning tournament fishing last May, Davison was surprised and pleased with her performance. She takes $8,000 in winnings, but each event as a co-angler also allows her to take valuable information from pro partners "if you're willing to learn and pay attention," she said.
Davison also hopes her strong finish in a premier event might inspire more women to try big-time tournament fishing.
"I wish more women would come out to fish," she said. "It's a great way to learn. I fished with three great guys."
At the convention center, hundreds of fans poured in to catch the weigh-ins and try their luck at winning prizes from fishing equipment to boats. Hayden Walton, 14, and his dad Patrick came from Monroe, N.C., just to see the top anglers.
"It's just fun to come out and watch the anglers to see what they've got," said Hayden Walton, who fishes his local fishing club back home.
Hayden hopes to fish the tournament himself someday--and not just for the trophy.
"Yeah, it'd be fun maybe hoisting up that check," he said. "The trophy's nice, but it's all about the check."