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Ohio Team seizes final win at Fishers of Men National Championship on Sam Rayburn
By Patty Lenderman

Coming to Sam Rayburn to participate in the two day National Championship of the Fishers of Men National Tournament trail were 106 teams representing forty divisions in twenty four states. Traveling from states as far away as Wisconsin, these men and women pounded the waters of Sam Rayburn, many for the first time and gathered at Jackson Hill Marina to hold the weigh in and the ceremonies that followed. In the end, the Ohio team of Jami Norman and John Bennett came through with back to back limits that tallied up to the winning weight claiming the title of National Fishers of Men Champions.

The first day of competition, November 14, brought the anglers face to face with a cold front that shut down the big bites. Two out of three flights came in and a 15 lb stringer was yet to be seen. Forty four teams brought limits to the scales, and by days end Roger Spaulding of Indiana was the established leader with 16.55 lbs. Following in a very close second place lead was the South Carolina team of Clay Riddle and Gary Metts with 16.36 lbs. Rounding out the top five day one leaders were Tripp Dilworth and Andy Anderson of Mississippi with 14.80 lbs, Billy and Doug Perkins of Mississippi with 14.50 lbs, and in fifth place Brian Witham and Andy Wallace of Indiana with 14.45 lbs. Big bass of the day was brought in by Tim and Chad Andrea, weighing in at 6.37 lbs.

During the weigh in, Al Odom, founder and tournament director, brought the Barthol family of Broaddus, TX to the stage. The participants of the tournament had seen them in town, nearby to the tournament site, devastated after losing their house to fire. Everyone pitched in to help and the family was presented with a check for $1,500 to help get them back on their feet after such a great loss. The family expressed deep appreciation as they held back their tears.Day two came in with overcast skies with patchy rain, some wind and bigger fish adding up to heavier sacks. While many had caught their fish with a worm pattern on day one, the fish were a lot more aggressive on day two and many of the anglers found the better bite on crank baits. With the changing of weather patterns and fishing patterns, there were a lot of surprises in store for the shifts in the standings from day one to the final tally.

1st place - 33.00 lbs - Jami Norman and John Bennett of Ohio brought in 18.79 lbs on day two, bringing them up from their 7th place standing on day one to their National Champions finish. Fishing Farmers flats, they threw rattle traps in up to 6' of water in hydrilla and weed beds. "We've caught a ton of fish all throughout practice and during competition. We're ready to move down here" Jami reported. They won a Triton TR20 powered by a 200 hp Mercury motor. This is their second boat win, the other won in Kentucky at the Midwest Regional event.

2nd place - 31.63 lbs - Percy and David Jones of Mississippi brought in the heaviest sack of the tournament on day two, weighing in at 22.65 lbs raising them from 49th place at the end of day one to their second place finish. They started out in the same areas they fished on day one and had a small limit in the boat by noon. They packed up and went to the Canyons area. It was there that they caught their day two second place big bass kicker weighing in at 6.84 lbs. Fishing a black/blue jig & pig at 10' depths in the stumps, they culled almost their entire first limit in the last few hours of competition.

3rd place - 30.94 lbs - Clay Riddle and Gary Metts of South Carolina dropped from 2nd place on day one to their 3rd place final standings, staying in the top slots with back to back limits on both days. When asked what they caught their fish on, Clay responded "Lying's a sin" as he smiled without saying another word about it.

Big Bass - 7.86 lbs - Jeffrey and Tim Hands of Mississippi caught the big bass of the tournament on a white buzz bait in 1' depths in the lilly pads. They found her in Pophers Creek at noon.

Top 10 Overall:
1st - 33.00 lbs (Ohio) Jami Norman / John Bennett
2nd - 31.63 lbs (MS-Central) Percy Jones / David Jones
3rd - 30.94 lbs (SC-Low) Clay Riddle / Gary Metts
4th - 29.79 lbs (In-S) Brian Witham / Adam Wallace
5th - 29.10 lbs (TX-NC) Tony Owens / Reese Sparrow
6th - 28.92 lbs (GA-N) Ty Reagan / Gary Anderson
7th - 27.01 lbs (KY-N) Darrin Rice / Jason Rice
8th - 26.81 lbs (TN-C) Steve Sentell / Don Sentell
9th - 26.79 lbs (IN-S) Allen Woodford / Aaric Correll
10th - 26.28 lbs (TX-NE) Bill Green / Eddie Green

Big Bass Day 1:
1st - 6.37 lbs (WI) Tim Andrea / Chad Andrea
2nd - 5.00 lbs (IN-S) Allen Woodford / Aaric Correll

Big Bass Day 2:
1st - 7.86 lbs (MS-Cent) Jeffrey Hand / Tim Hand
2nd - 6.84 lbs (MS-Cent) Percy Jones / David Jones

The next Fishers of Men event on Sam Rayburn will be the East Texas division, February 28th at Jackson Hill Marina. For more information please contact Duck Wright at 409-489-6400 or visit their website for more information, tournament and YTD standings at

Al Odom is the National Director and Founder of the Fishers of Men Ministries tournament trail. When asked how all of this got started, he smiled and told this story: "I was sitting in church listening to the pastor give his sermon one Sunday. The sermon covered the passage of Matthew 4:19 as Jesus was gathering the first three of His disciples, who were fishermen. He said 'Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men'. I got to thinking about that, being an avid fisherman and tournament angler myself. Later the pastor came and told me about a tournament with Jimmy Houston hosting as weigh master and I got this idea. Through the fellowship of anglers our Ministries can reach and touch so many lives with a Fishers of Men tournament trail. The first tournament was held in 1996 at Santee Cooper in South Carolina. The trail itself began in 1998 and has gone from 4 to 40 divisions since then with over 3,000 anglers participating." Al was a full time teacher and coach for over 17 years. Having a wife and four children, the decision he was faced with in 2000 with this growing trail needing full time attention was a scary one. Putting his faith in God, he resigned his teaching career to go to full time ministry through Fishers of Men. "God has blessed me with the opportunity to meet and share with so many people" Al said. Since the inception of the organization, it has grown a phenomenal 1000% and is still growing. In 2004 there will be 49 divisions (40 in 2003) and include 25 states (24 in 2003). Oklahoma is the newest state to enter into the realm of the organization.

Sponsors for the Fishers of Men National Championship include: Earl Bentz and Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Anglers Advantage Insurance Program, Alan Ranson and Chris Brown at Strike King, Spike-It Baits, Trey Kistler of Kistler Custom Fishing Rods, Marshall's Marine, BG Wakerunner, Jones Chevrolet, Ted Sakai and Lucky Craft Lures, Mad Man, Dave's Tournament Tackle, Stanley Jigs, Deka Marine Master Batteries, The Original Fish Formula, Lifeway Christian Resources, Bass Pro Shops, Sufix Fishing Line, Keep Alive, Lowrance, Angl er's Choice Marine, Bass Rx, Doyle Hodgin Sports, Dual Pro Chargers, Ledgebuster, Jacob's Glass, Just Add Water Boats, World Of Fishing, and Support Technologies.

The Barthol family of Broaddus, TX was very grateful to the Fishers of Men for the check presented to them to help put the pieces back together after they lost their home to fire

2nd place finish, up from 49th on day 1 was Percy and David Jones of Mississippi with 31.63 lbs
< photos by Patty Lenderman >

National Champions Jami Norman and John Bennett were presented beautiful glass etched plaques along with their brand new Triton fully rigged bass boat

3rd place South Carolina team of Clay Riddle and Gary Metts brought in back to back limits for their final finish

Big Bass of the tournament weighed in at 7.86 lbs, caught by Tim and Jeffrey Hand of Mississippi

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