Two local high school fishing teams competed against the top teams in the state Friday and Saturday in the Tennessee BASS Nation High School State Championship on Chickamauga Lake.
All six qualifying teams from Lenoir City High School weighed in fish over the two days, including the team of Brandon Sales and Logan Johnson, who placed 54th out of 210 boats with 20.54 pounds; Brodie Brown and Daniel Ridenour, who placed 55th with 20.22 pounds; Colby Gatlin and Hunter Proctor, who placed 76th with 15.8 pounds; John Thompson, who placed 117th with 8.88 pounds; and Jordan Weatherly, who placed 190th with 1.68 pounds.
“I reiterate the fact that these kids get up at 4 o’clock in the morning, have everything ready by 6:15 a.m. and this weekend was quite warm so they had to battle a little bit of rain and a whole lot of heat,” Allen Woods, LCHS Bass Club head coach, said. “I’m well-pleased with the teams that were down there because they got out there and stuck it out and brought in what they could. The lower end of the lake is where most of the fish were, and that’s where most of the boats were. There were both shallow biting and deep biting but unless you knew specific spots ... it was kind of a teaching point.”
Although Lenoir City didn’t have any teams place within the top 50, Woods was proud to field the most teams in the state tournament in program history.
In addition, Lenoir City had three duos finish in the top 70 in the state points race, which consists of nearly 400 teams. Johnson and Sales placed 33rd overall, while Thompson and O’Domirok placed 50th. Brown and Ridenour rounded out at 70th.
“They’ve performed outstanding all year and when you look at the Bass Pro Shops trail, we’ve got third and fourth place and then you’ve got sixth place,” Woods said. “That says a lot because there’s a lot of boats in that, and what I’ve emphasized throughout the years is, ‘Work as a team, win as a team.’ I think they work together and feed off each other and go about it that way, which is kind of cool.”
Lenoir City was represented Saturday when the duo of Hunter Canova and Brent Key finished fourth overall in the Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Series Classic on Eagle Mountain Lake and Lake Worth in Fort Worth, Texas.
“They’re walking across the same stage as the big boys are walking across, so it’s kind of a cool event for them to be able to do that,” Woods said. “I looked at some of the videos and it’s pretty cool to see those orange jerseys walking across in Texas, so that says a lot for our program.”
Canova and Key reeled in a total bag weight of 9.7 pounds and landed the lunker of the tournament at 6.13 pounds.
“It was a fun experience because we had that big fish on there after we had some rough days in practice throughout the week,” Canova said. “Being able to land that fish and another one was great. We were freaking out a little bit when we had that fish on, but we were able to get it in and all that. It was a lot smaller of a lake that we fished on for that tournament, but it was a lot hotter weather and we just had to keep our heads down and fish like normal because we knew it was going to be rough from the start.”
The Loudon High School Bass Fishing Club had four teams qualify for the state tournament for the first time, but only two teams were able to participate.
The duo of Brad Brown and Aiden Worley finished 127th with 8.08 pounds, while the team of Skylar Foxx and Colton Atchley finished 169th with 4.09 pounds.
“Can’t put into words how proud I am as we competed in our first state championship,” Charlie Brown, LHS Bass Fishing Club head coach, said. “It was a two-day tournament and was an awesome experience. We didn’t win it all, but we got to stand on stage and weigh in. We all had a great time and hope to do it again next year. The team has come a long way since we got started just a few seasons ago. All in all, I’m super proud of everyone and can’t wait to start the next season with all the valuable information we learned this season.”
Lenoir City will have another opportunity to bring home a trophy later this summer since Johnson and Sales have qualified for the Bassmaster High School National Championship to be held July 29-31 on Chickamauga Lake.
Woods said the teams of Brown/Ridenour and Thompson/O’Domirok could potentially qualify for nationals as well, but a final list from BASS Nation has yet to be released.