STANTON — When it comes to fishing, Bill Simpson knows how to finish.
The Stanton resident spent last week in Lacrosse, Wisc. along the shores of the Mississippi River competing in the 2012 The Bass Federation (TBF) Northern Division Championship.
The Northern division consists of anglers from Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Competing among 72 anglers, Simpson finished first among Michigan anglers and in seventh place overall. Placing first earned Simpson a trip to the 2013 TBF National Championship.
“I am ecstatic. This is the highlight of my short fishing career,” Simpson said of reaching nationals. “It’s just sinking in how big this is and the potential that is there. Do I think I will win this thing, absolutely not.
“I am honored to be among the premier fisherman and I will enjoy the experience. Will I try to win, absolutely I will,” he added.
Simpson jumped to first in the Northern Division Championship with one of the best fishing days of the tournament. He went from being down four ounces to winning the top Michigan spot by more than seven pounds.
“I had a day that every angler dreams about,” Simpson said. “I got into an area that I had caught a 2 1/2 pounder on each day. At 9:20 a.m. I went back to that spot.”
The area was the size of a football field. He spent a good portion of his day in this area and it turned out to be a great choice to fish.
“I was pulling out 3-pounders left and right,” Simpson said. “I went back-and-forth for the next 3 1/2 hours trying different angles and presentations to the fish. I ended up catching a 4-pound 15-ounce large mouth bass.”
That fish was not only the largest fish of the day, but the largest fish of the tournament. Simpson finished with a total of 16-12 (total for five fish) for day three.
His three day total of 39-3 was tops out of the 12 Michigan anglers and seventh overall. Mark Goetsch of Gibraltar was second in the state with a total of 32-1.
“That was the largest big mouth bass I’ve ever caught in my life,” Simpson said.
The results earned Simpson a spot in the TBF National Championship in April of 2013. He won’t find out the location until later this year.
Simpson will be competing for $250,000 in cash and prizes and paid entries into professional FLW events next year.
“It’s a lot bigger deal than I had originally imagined,” Simpson said. “I didn’t realize how big of a deal it was until I started researching going to the national championship.”
Simpson qualified for the Northern Division Championship with a 12th place finish last year on Houghton Lake. There Simpson needed a one hour overtime to break a tie and qualify.
He has already qualified for the 2013 Northern Division Championship, as well. He finished in eighth place in July on Lake St. Clair. Simpson caught a personal day’s best of 17-10.
National Championship qualifying takes place in the year prior to the event.
All of this has happened for Simpson in just five years.
“This is my fifth year of fishing,” Simpson said. “We are very fortunate in this area. We have a lot of really, really good anglers. I have learned a lot from them.”
Fishing is a perfect compliment for the competitive outdoorsmen.
“I’ve always like the outdoors. I went out fishing with my brother-in-law a handful of times and enjoyed it,” Simpson said. “I’m an ultra competitive person and tournament bass fishing fills both of those needs for me.”
Simpson fishes in two area leagues each week. They compete at various lakes all over the area.
“We are blessed in Montcalm County with so many lakes in a close proximity,” Simpson said. “Right now my favorite is probably Dickerson Lake. I just caught two 4-pounders in a three hour tournament. That was fun.”
Simpson will spend the next few months learning and improving on his craft. He doesn’t expect to win a national championship, but will try his best to do so.
“Somebody has got to win it,” Simpson said.