Loudon County was well-represented last week when five teams with the Lenoir City High School Bass Club competed in the 2020 Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School National Championship on Kentucky Lake.
“First and foremost, to qualify for the high school national championship is a feat in itself,” Allen Woods, LCHS Bass Club head coach, said. “These kids compete during the season to get that spot in nationals, and I jokingly said, ‘I’d like to see three teams.’ It all worked out and we sent five teams. I’m going to go out on a limb but I think out of all the high schools, we sent the most to the nationals this year. That was cool in itself and the kids helped accomplish that.”
Four of five teams placed out of 200 boats. Zane O’Domirok and John Thompson finished 63rd overall with a bag of five fish for a total of 9.5 pounds.
The team practiced Oct. 20-21 and followed up Thursday through Saturday in competition.
“It was really cool because it’s not often that you get to see everyone who’s qualified, and this is the best of the best in the high school league,” Thompson said. “As far as the conditions go, Thursday it was really sunny and was the way we wanted it to be. That’s why the first day of the tournament went a lot better for us because we were catching fish that was related to shade, so it gave them a shade line to get into.”
Other finishes included Colby Gatlin and Hunter Proctor, who placed 132nd with 4.5 pounds; Avery Johnson and Marshall Smith, who placed 157th with 2.12 pounds; and Dalton Bailey and Hayden Stockett, who placed 166th with 2.7 pounds.
“Fishing Kentucky Lake this time of year, everything’s changing and they did what they could do,” Woods said. “Fish don’t play nice sometimes, and I’m glad to see some of our seniors getting to go. This year was a little bit different because usually the lake opens up on Sunday. They couldn’t be on the lake until Tuesday and Wednesday to practice so if you didn’t have a predetermined notion about the lake and what you wanted to do, you had to do a lot in those two practice days.”
At least one team from LCHS has qualified each year for the national championship in the last four years. Woods believes more is on the horizon.
“I think we’ve got 24 members right now and it just keeps growing,” he said. “I spoke with my wife (Monday) and the state director from Ohio, and these kids are blessed beyond measure being able to fish as much as they can fish. In Ohio, they’ve got a handful of tournaments. If we have a state or region, you might have as many as 250 boats. That’s what gives us those opportunities to get as many spots as we get, and it’s pretty cool to be a part of that.”
The 2020-21 season started Sept. 19, and Lenoir City is primed to make another run at the state and national championships next summer.
“For my senior year, I’d like to finish in the top 10 and at least finish in the trail point races,” Thompson said. “Hopefully, we can make it to nationals again. If we can make top 10 in the points race in one of the trails we fish in, we’ll be able to go to nationals again. It’d be good to make it two years in a row and one last time.”