DECATUR, Ala. — A drastic change in weather made the fishing tough on Wilson Lake Saturday, but Nik Autrey and Alex Goff figured out what they needed to do to bring home the Bassmaster Junior World Championship trophies.
Autrey, 19, of Washington, won the JWC one-day tournament for the 15- to 18-year-olds age group with 10 pounds, 3 ounces. Goff, 15, West Virginia, won for the 11- to 14-year-olds group with 8 pounds even. They topped a group of 12 junior anglers from six divisions who advanced to the JWC through a number of qualifying rounds on the local, state and divisional levels.
While each step to the championship was surely challenging, the weather change from low 70s on practice day Friday to mid-40s with high winds today proved too tough for some of the juniors who wound up bringing in empty bags. But Autrey said he knew he had to change tactics.
“I had to go back today and adjust, fish a little slower and deeper,” Autrey said, following the weigh-in in Decatur, Ala. His original plan of fishing the dam when the current was flowing didn’t pan out, so he and Tyler Evans, the younger angler from Montana that he was paired with, fished in a number of different spots, including Six-Mile Creek. “My first fish was my smallest, and then I caught a better one on an Alabama rig two hours later,” Autrey said.
Autrey and Goff tied for the Big Bass award, each with fish that weighed 3-7. They will both receive a $100 Cabela’s gift card. Autrey said he caught his big bass just a half mile from the launch ramp, about 5 minutes before check-in. “I had a one in six shot to win, and I knew if I stuck with it, I’d have a good shot,” Autrey said.
Autrey, a member of the Inland Empire Bass Club, brought his five-fish limit in using an umbrella rig with V&M pork shads or 8-inch V&M Pork Pins. He used a Batson Enterprises Rainshadow Forecast rod with a Quantum Exo reel and 25-pound Bass Pro Shops fluorocarbon.
Goff, who fishes with the Mon Valley Bassmasters, said he caught his three fish throwing a spinnerbait and a Rat-L-Trap in the Town Creek area of Wilson Lake. “It means a lot to me,” Goff said during the weigh-in. “I would’ve never expected this.”
All 12 junior competitors will take home scholarships, and the top angler in each age group – Autrey and Goff – will receive a Triton boat package, including a 16-foot aluminum boat with a Mercury outboard, MotorGuide trolling motor and Lowrance electronics.
Caleb Taylor, 18, Indiana, came in second in the 15-18 age group with 5 pounds, 4 ounces, while Tyler Evans, 14, Montana, came in second in the 11-14 group with 4 pounds, 9 ounces. “I was really excited that I made it here, and it was a great experience to do this,” Evans said.
Willem Lubbinge of South Africa, 18, traveled the farthest for the JWC and came up empty for the one-day competition, but he wanted to thank his father, who was in the audience, and his friends and family back home. “It’s great to be at the JWC and to be in Alabama,” Lubbinge said.
All the anglers lamented the weather, including Christopher Chandler, 15, Louisiana, who brought in a 1-pounder and said the cold weather really hurt him. “The wind was blowing too hard,” he said.
Despite the tough conditions, Autrey and Goff overcame the challenges.
“I’m just excited,” Goff said. “I can’t believe we did this.”