ERIE, Pa. — The Junior Bassmaster competition of the B.A.S.S. Nation Mid Atlantic Divisional has become a showcase for West Virginia’s youth program.
In the last four years, West Virginia juniors have claimed five divisional titles and the state also has the reigning Junior Bassmaster World Championship (JWC) winner Alex Goff. This year’s divisional includes West Virginia teenager Henry Schomaker, a four-time state champion and two-time divisional champ. The son of Chris Schomaker and Donna Combs has competed in two Junior Bassmaster World Championships and missed winning the 2011 event by 1 ounce.
The New River Junior Bassmasters club member attributes his success to his dad, who took him fishing at an early age. “We started fishing adult buddy trail tournaments when I was 7 years old,” said Schomaker, who joined his bass club when he was 11.
The 18-year-old Schomaker also believes fishing in his home state has contributed to his success. “West Virginia is a tough fishery, and you have to be able to finesse the fish,” he said. “Every tournament that I win seems to be a tough one. I usually win when it doesn’t take that much (weight) to win.”
The Junior Bassmaster program has taught Schomaker that “hard work pays off.” He has also learned how to market himself to gain national sponsors such as Dobyns Rods. Schomaker plans on attending West Virginia Tech to major in civil engineering and he hopes to start a fishing team there.
Competing in his last divisional as a junior, Schomaker is hoping for bad weather on the competition day so the tournament waters will be restricted to Presque Isle Bay where he has caught some quality largemouth in practice. However the forecast calls for calm weather so Schomaker will have to figure out how to catch smallmouth on Lake Erie. If he does that, he could add a third divisional title to his fishing resume.
The junior anglers will weigh in with the adult Mid-Atlantic Divisional contenders at 2 p.m. ET tomorrow at Presque Isle Bay State Park.