Pan American Bass Championship
Best buddies Mark Daniels Jr. and Brian “B. Lat” Latimer rarely get to hop into the same boat, let alone fish for a common cause. But when they do, the ace bass men make a pretty powerful angling team.
At the first annual Pan American Bass Fishing Championship, October 18, Daniels and B. Lat grabbed the gold medal in the team competition. The longtime friends and professional fishermen bagged an impressive 45.08-pounds of St. Lawrence River smallmouth bass, edging the legendary Roland and Scott Martin by mere ounces. The overall gold—awarded to the nation’s team with the highest average weight— went to Canada. Team USA earned the silver medal, trailing by a tiny margin of .01-pounds. Between eight teams representing each country, Canada averaged 38.98-pounds to USA’s 38.97.
Making its own statement, both the Team and Nations golds were attributed to two divergent bait styles by the same rising-star lure company, Z-Man Fishing.
Hosted by the Canadian Sportfishing Association at Cornwall, Ontario, the Pan Am Bass Championship features Olympic-style fishing. Twenty-six total teams represented the USA, Canada, Mexico, and First Nations, each vying for gold medals instead of megabucks.
“This is a pretty special moment,” said Latimer. “It isn’t about a payout or a big check. It’s bigger than that. There’s pride in your country. Pride in our sport. And a sense of accomplishment for making it to this level and moment in your career.”
“It’s a big deal, no doubt,” added Daniels, known as MDJ. “But when you get to win an event like this while fishing with your best friend, who you never get to fish with, that’s pretty cool, too.”
Another common bond among the anglers could be found within each of their respective tackle bags. “At a place like this, you don’t want to be without Z-Man soft plastics,” affirmed Daniels, who, alongside Latimer, boated numerous whopper small jaws using Ned-, wacky- and dropshot-rigged ElaZtech finesse baits. “You can’t fish for smallmouth bass anywhere in the country—any country— without bringing the ElaZtech. Coming into this event, I knew we would be throwing a lot of TRDs and Finesse WormZ. And as expected, those baits were golden.”
After foul weather, canceled competition on Day 1, Daniels, Latimer, and the rest of the field hit the water on Friday for a split fishing session. They weighed 21.16 pounds in the morning, followed up with a tournament-best 23.92 pounds in the afternoon.
The team keyed on milfoil flats and isolated holes with rock and sand—essentially a well-known late fall staging zone that attracted several other teams. But to help set them apart, MDJ and B. Lat made three key adjustments: First, they identified and placed casts in smaller, less obvious holes within the vegetation. Second, as the day progressed, the anglers nudged out toward slightly deeper 8- to 12-foot edges and holes. Finally, Latimer suggested that extra-long casts induced more bites from the schools of harried smallmouths.
Daniels and Latimer alternated between two bait styles. A Green Pumpkin-pattern Finesse TRD rode a 1/5-ounce black Finesse ShroomZ jighead, Ned Rig style. “Both a Green Pumpkin and EZ Money-colored Finesse WormZ produced good bites on a ¼-ounce dropshot,” added Latimer.
While the USA’s top team skillfully picked apart the cover and finessed their way to the gold, several top Canadian teams chose a power-fishing approach. Renowned Canadian angler David Chong called Z-Man ChatterBaits a “huge factor in the gold medal win for Team Canada.”
Chong threw a ChatterBait JackHammer, which put several critical bass in his boat. After boating a pair of 5-pounders on a ChatterBait Freedom, Robert Greenberg and Matt Massey shared a few of the baits with fellow Team Canada members Jason Gramada and Nicolas Gendron. The unique swivel-head bladed jig proved to be a valuable spinnerbait alternative, capturing enough big bass— including the tournament-best 6.26-pound smallmouth— to secure an overall 4th place finish. Gramada and Gendron’s monster bass and others ate a ½-ounce Bluegill-pattern ChatterBait Freedom dressed with a Jackall Rhythm Wave swimbait.
A collaborative effort between Freedom Tackle and Z-Man, two radical ChatterBait Bladed Jig designs feature a free-swinging jighead. The newly-minted ChatterBait Freedom CFL features a pivoting football head and special bottom-hugging elements that excel in deeper water presentations. The aforementioned high-action ChatterBait Freedom remains something of an under-the-radar tournament bait, often overshadowed by the JackHammer, but with several captivating attributes. The lure’s articulated head-to-hook connection plays off the vibration of the adjacent ChatterBlade, producing a third dimension of undulation in the skirt and soft plastic trailer. Massey also noted that the free-swinging ChatterBait head prevented bass from gaining leverage and throwing the hook—another major key to the lure’s success.
At the Pan Am gold medal ceremony, B. Lat reflected on the enormity of the occasion. “I started fishing because that’s what I always wanted to do what I was born to do. Never thought my passion for fishing—skipping work to go fishing, spending all my time and money on fishing—could lead to this: representing my country with a fishing rod.”
Years ago, Daniels and Latimer competed against each other on the FLW circuit. Today, they’re gold medal winners, best buds, and representatives of the same team and country. That both men throw, the same style baits makes sense.
“Back when B. Lat first turned me on to Z-Man finesse baits, it changed my world,” admits Daniels. “What can you say when a single bait can catch dozens of bass and keep on ticking? Or when those same baits catch big bass regardless of what country you’re in? Gold, man. Pure gold.”