By Marty Gordon
Mark Blankenship of Christiansburg is among 110 anglers competing in this weekend’s 2020 All- American Tournament at Lake Hartwell, S.C., sponsored by Fishing League Worldwide (FLW).
The All-American is one of the longest-running championships in bass fishing and is often considered to be the pinnacle of the grassroots level.
The field includes the top six boaters and co-anglers from each of six 2019 Regional Championships plus the top six from the 2019 Wild Card and top eligible finisher from each of the seven TBF (The Bass Federation) divisions in the 2020 TBF National Championship. The second-, third- and fourth-place teams (six anglers) from the 2020 Abu Garcia College Fishing National Championship qualify as boaters. The fifth and sixth place teams (four anglers) from the College Fishing National Championship qualify as co-anglers. The winners of the 2019 High School Fishing National Championship (two anglers) qualify as co-anglers.
Blankenship qualified by winning the 2019 regional on the Potomac River in October at which he received a new 2020 518 Ranger boat valued at $50,000.
“Winning this boat has changed my life and my whole outlook on life in general,” Blankenship said. “It has also given me a shot at another $50,000 in the All-American tournament.”
This season, the All-American boater champion earns a six-figure payday plus an extra $20,000 if he is eligible for the FLW Phoenix Bonus. The highest-finishing boater and co-angler from each regional and the wild card at the All-American earn spots in the 2020 Toyota Series Championship.
According to Blankenship, “It absolutely feels great to be able to fish this All-American Tournament. It is a feat that only a small percentage of people ever get to experience.”
This is the second year he has fished the BFL tournaments as a co-angler.
“I have fished all my life here in Southwest Virginia,” Blankenship said. “I got into bass fishing in 2001 with a local club called Rock Bottom Bassmasters that was run out of our job at Corning.”
A short time later he joined FLW and began fishing tournaments.
Blankenship credits his wife for supporting him in this endeavor. “She is my biggest fan. She and I also still fish the Fishers of Men tournament trail when the schedule doesn’t conflict with the BFL tournaments:
He has fished 12 major tournaments with his two wins coming at Kerr Lake and the Potomac River qualifier.