MONROE, La. -- Most of the 2011 Bassmaster Junior World Championship competitors said today could have gone better. But for James Graves III, it really couldn't have. Click to view the final standings.
Graves blew away the field on Bayou DeSiard in Monroe, La., with 5 pounds, 12 ounces, which was 3 pounds, 10 ounces better than his closest opponent in the 11- to 14-year-olds age division, Adam Farner.
"I was catching them on almost every cast this morning," said Graves, a member of the Orange County High School Anglers in Virginia. "I caught about 10 today, but only four were keepers."
Graves was the only angler in the field to bring in more than two fish, and he credits the cypress trees in the shade against the bank for his good fortune. He was fishing a shaky head slowly around the cypress trees, and the bass would just pick it up.
Lance Freeman fished pretty slowly too, and it paid off for him as well. Freeman won the 15- to 18-year-olds age group with 2 pounds, 10 ounces -- all from a single fish.
"I was fishing a spinnerbait and caught a few short fish," said Freeman, a member of the West Kentucky Junior Bassmasters. "But I caught the keeper flipping a Fish Candy Bait Co. Beave Bug in watermelon red."
Freeman and his Southern Division counterpart, Alan Shelton, covered a lot of water today, claiming they fished three-quarters of the bayou. They had most of their success on the northern end of the bayou. Together, the pair caught about 15 fish but only had three keepers in the boat.
"I am astounded that I won," exclaimed Freeman afterward as he held his trophy. "I'm just speechless."
The Junior Bassmaster contenders were driven around the bayou by volunteer anglers from University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM), all of whom were complimentary of the young competitors.
"I would have fished the same stuff James did," said Nick LaDart, Graves' driver. "He really adapted today from the cloudy conditions in practice yesterday. He did great."
The families of the winners gathered around as soon as Graves and Freeman were presented their trophies.
"I'm just so proud of him," said Lance's mother, Vonda Freeman, with tears in her eyes. "I knew he could do it. He never gives up."