ANDERSON, S.C. — Stanley Beebe really did look like a deer in the headlights Thursday evening when he won the nonboater division of the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Championship.
Almost all of the 56 nonboaters in the tournament had already weighed in by the time the California resident came to the stage. B.A.S.S. Nation Director and emcee Jon Stewart was moving in rapid-fire fashion trying to nudge proceedings ahead of the darkness that was falling quickly over Green Pond Landing and Lake Hartwell.
Not missing a beat, B.A.S.S. staff hurriedly dragged portable lights in front of the stage to illuminate the last-minute intrigue.
Things were moving fast, but not fast enough for New Mexico’s Brad Hauf, who had been in the nonboater hot seat for an hour.
Beebe approached the scale needing 10 pounds, 13 ounces to seize the division lead, and he delivered a five-bass limit of 11 pounds that clinched the nonboater championship.
Beebe thought he had about 9 pounds in Thursday’s bag, so he was surprised — however pleasantly — by the final weight. He beamed from ear to ear as artificial light shined off his eyeglasses and off the new Louis “PeeWee” Powers Memorial Trophy that he hoisted over his right shoulder.
Beebe caught nine bass weighing 17 pounds, 13 ounces over two days of nonboater competition, but It was a bass he hooked with about five minutes remaining on Thursday that likely was the most important.
Beebe estimated that fish weighed only about 2 1/4 pounds, but it allowed him to cull and add approximately a pound to his total. That catch set in motion the final frenzied moments of the nonboater competition.
It all happened so quickly, Beebe seemed to be in a bit of shock after the win. After all, he was in 22nd place after Day 1 with four bass that weighed 6-13, and he was fairly certain he’d be heading home to San Luis Obispo sooner than he liked.
Instead, Beebe is among the dozen anglers fishing Friday for the overall B.A.S.S. Nation Championship. He’s joined by 11 boaters from around the world who qualified in boater division competing on Hartwell the past two days.
This is heady territory for all the men. The three anglers with the heaviest three-day totals will earn berths in the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk when it’s held next year on Lake Guntersville in Alabama. The Nation winner also will earn a $20,000 Skeeter/Yamaha cash prize and a spot in the 2020 Bassmaster Elite Series.
Beebe already won a $10,000 Skeeter/Yamaha cash prize for topping the nonboater field, and he earned entry into the Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens division of choice in 2020.
“I didn’t expect this at all,” Beebe said. “It’s all coming as a surprise. It’s just incredible.”
But it’s not impossible, as Beebe is quickly learning. He has his work cut out for him — his two-day total of 17-13 places him last of the dozen anglers who survived the cut and advanced from the field of 115 total competitors.
But no one besides Beebe has a trophy to bring home just yet. His bears the likeness and name of longtime B.A.S.S. employee Louis “PeeWee” Powers, who passed away in July. This is the first year the handsome and sturdy trophy was awarded to the nonboater champion.
“This trophy is way heavier than I thought it was going to be,” Beebe said.
Eleven other men have the chance to do some heavy lifting of their own Friday afternoon. Beebe would like nothing more than double down and lock up the overall title.
Stay tuned. Things are sure to happen fast.