Debi Wiles fishes to first

Thursday, October 25, 2018
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Courtesy photo

Debi Wiles holds a trophy bass caught on the Tongue river. She and her husband Benny have competed in numerous team bass fishing competitions.

For the past few years, local resident Debi Wiles and her husband Benny have attended what they call, “a summer’s worth of tournaments.” Competing both as a team and individually, the two have specialized in catch-and-release style bass fishing.

For Debi, this year’s tournament appearance meant that she was able to receive the award for Female Bass Angler of the Year, an award she had won previously – and also the award for Bass Angler of the Year, beating out both the male and female competitors. Debi and her husband participate with both the Eastern Montana Bass Anglers, which is the local club of 28 members, and the National Bass Anglers Association, which hosts tournaments throughout the summer as well.

The tournaments generally are scored over the course of one day, and while the competitions may take place throughout several days, each day is judged separately. This means that, over the course of the day, contestants can catch up to five scoring bass.

They’re allowed to catch as many as they want, but only five may remain in the contestants’ live wells come judging time. Benny Wiles, who is knowledgeable about the sport, welcomes anyone who would want to “get in on the circuit,” or anyone who loves to fish or is just looking to learn.

According to the competition rules, the team or contestant who has the highest combined weight of all five fish wins. Each team then is judged and given a score based on its position.

Debi, having been named Bass Angler of the Year, will be competing in the national tournament at Table Rock Lake in Missouri, along with her husband and the other top nine teams from Montana. All fishing is done in a catchand-release style. Any fish that is unable to live due to conditions, or that has died in the well, is subtracted from the team’s final weight.

The club uses artificial lures and no live bait, and fishes mainly for bass, which is the only scored fish during the competitions. Catch-and-release bass competitions generally are held on the Tongue River, Castle Rock Lake in Colstrip, the Yellowtail Dam in Fort Smith and at Fort Peck.