Loudon High School’s Brad Brown and Dallas Brewster placed seventh in the Bass Nation State Championship last week.
The two-day event, held Friday and Saturday at Paris Landing, welcomed 200 boats from around the state. Brown and Brewster caught a total of 18.44 pounds, including a five-fish limit on the first day, to take seventh place.
“I’m still in awe and it’s still kind of sinking in the success we had,” Charlie Brown, LHS bass fishing head coach, said. “I know some schools have been in it so long that they might be disappointed with a seventh placed finish, but I by far am stoked.”
A second Loudon team, composed of Colton Atchley and Will Miller, also competed in the championship. Though they got a couple of fish, they all got off and left the two anglers unable to weigh in. However, Brown said it was still a great experience for them after learning they would be competing at the last minute because another team dropped out.
Both teams got to travel to Paris Landing a week ahead of time thanks to their sponsors, giving them the opportunity to scope out a lake that was unknown to them before the tournament. Charlie said that that time was invaluable to Brad and Brewster’s success.
“If it wasn’t for the sponsors that we had, we wouldn’t have been able to afford going onto that trip to there, so that alone was a big deal, having a sponsorship for that trip,” he said. “But that’s by far a lake we’ve never even seen before, so we got up there and we got to practice all week because of the sponsorship money we had. It allowed us to pay for a cabin, so we could get up every morning at the break of dawn and get on the water and figure this lake out. And between the two teams and getting out there and practicing, we were able to come up with some ideas, learn the lake and figure some things out. It’s the best planning we’ve ever been able to do for a lake.”
Brad and Brewster both said the advance week gave them the opportunity to observe the fish and notice “weird” behaviors. The pair then adapted to what they had seen in order to have a successful meet.
“I think that if we didn’t learn the lake before, we probably wouldn’t have done that, because we started off trying fishing deep like everybody was saying to do and then we found another way to catch them,” Brewster said. “So I’m glad we were there for the week to learn the lake.”
The anglers had a strong opening outing on a very warm day to set them up for the second day of the event. After dealing with a variety of challenging weather conditions such as heavy rains and extreme cold earlier in the the year, Brad said that that was one thing they had learned from the season
“(We learned to) definitely fight through anything you’re going through, whether it be heat, whether it be rain, whether it be cold, whether it be anything throughout the tournament,” Brad said. “You just got to fight through it to catch more. Because Friday especially, it got to the point where … me and Dallas, we were having to dunk our heads about every thirty minutes. We had three fish in the boat around twelve o’clock, we didn’t have much confidence for the last two, and it got to the point where literally we were having to dunk our heads, we timed it, every fifteen minutes. And then we finally fought through, got those last two and got the limit.”
With the five-fish limit and a 10.90 pounds total weight, the pair finished the first day in eighth place. By the time Saturday rolled around, they were ready to climb even higher.
“We were stupid excited for the second day, wanting to push on,” Brad said.
“It gave us confidence and we knew what to do,” Brewster added. “Since we were placed, knowing that we were able to win, close to win, we fished more even if we weren’t catching anything. We were motivated.”
The pair caught another three fish on the second day to take their final weight to 18.44 pounds and clinch seventh place.
Brewster just completed his freshman year at Loudon, while Brad is a rising senior. Both will therefore return next year with hopes of using the experience to do even better.
They aren’t the only ones new to all of it, as the program itself is still in its infancy. This was only the fourth full season for the Loudon High School bass club, and Charlie and his anglers believe doing so well was a big step in growing it further.
“We’re still new and we’re still learning,” Charlie said. “I myself learned a lot about how to handle future upcoming big tournaments just from stuff we did different at this tournament to make a big difference on how to find fish, how to pay attention to what’s going on and how to approach a whole situation, having a good game plan to be successful.”
“Especially for the program, it’s getting the name out, showing that some smaller schools or some newer, some schools that are new to the whole program, can come around and make it to the higher numbers,” Brad added. “Make it and get out there and show other people that you don’t have to have several thousand dollars of electronics to go out there and win in these tournaments. We had like ten-year-old electronics and we still went out there and beat people who have $20,000 worth of electronics on their boat.”
That equipment discrepancy is something the program hopes to see change in the future. Brewster said he and Brad won lures from a Bass Nation giveaway prior to the start of the tournament that made a big difference in how many fish they were able to catch, but are out of the price-range he would usually go for. The team could also use newer electronics for their boat to close the gap to the other schools, which is why they are hoping to add more sponsors to the program.