SYRACUSE, N.Y. — New Jersey's Kyle Harrigan, 18, and New Mexico's Jordan McMorris, 15, won their respective age divisions Saturday at the Junior Bassmaster World Championship on New York's Onondaga Lake. The event was held in conjunction with the final Bassmaster Elite Series event of the season, which was staged on New York's Oneida Lake, and the pair of teenagers took home $5,000 each in scholarships and a Triton boat package.
Anglers competed in two age divisions, 11-14 and 15-18, fishing from the same boat operated by a Bassmaster Elite Series. The Junior World competitors were randomly paired with pros at a celebration Friday night and used Saturday as a practice day on Onondaga Lake. All earned the right to compete in the championship by fishing events on local and regional levels.
The youth anglers were treated to a first-class experience. The weigh-in was broadcast live on Bassmaster.com and each was photographed with BASS founder Ray Scott after weighing their catches.
Harrigan of Bradley, N.J., claimed the 15 to 18 year-old title with a 16-pound, 1-ounce mixed bag of largemouth and smallmouth bass. Harrigan's pro, Jeremy Starks of Charleston, W.V., served as Harrigan's mentor.
"He taught me a lot of stuff," said Harrigan, who just learned how to use drop-shot rigs Saturday. "I learned to keep my head in the game. We culled a lot of fish, and caught lots of fish in a row."
"The big key to winning was shaking the bait and using light line," said Starks. "It was getting out there and practicing and taking what we learned to the competition."
Harrigan enjoyed his day on Onondaga Lake with Starks and wants to pursue a career in professional bass fishing.
Scoring the runner-up position in the 15-18 age bracket was Doug McClung of Gramercy, La., with a five-fish limit weighing 15 pounds, 13 ounces. Robert Rahm of Bloomfield, N.M., followed in third place with 15 pounds, 5 ounces.
McMorris, the 11-14 age division champion, used drop shots and deep crankbaits to bring five fish to the scales for a limit of 15 pounds, 13 ounces. The Bloomfield, N.M., native credited his skill to watching The Bassmasters on ESPN2.
"Everything worked today," said McMorris. "We found a great spot in the last part of pre-fish and spent most of the day there."
McMorris attributed some of his success to his Elite pro, Yusuke Miyazaki. McMorris said Miyazaki taught him how to work his graph and electronics from Miyazaki.
Tyler Dennis of Shawnee, Okla., tipped the scales with five fish totaling 14 pounds, 8 ounces for second place, while Hunter Gaines of Wittman, Ariz., caught five fish for 14 pounds, 6 ounces for third place.
Dennis claimed the Purolator Big Bass prize in the 11-14 age division with a largemouth bass that weighed 4 pounds, 4 ounces.
The Purolator Big Bass for the 15-18 age division winner was John Newman of Oregon City, Ore., with a 7-pound, 1 ounce largemouth bass. The Purolator Big Bass winners each received a $1,000 scholarship.
Onondaga Lake is located on the outskirts of Syracuse, N.Y., and is 5 miles long and 1 mile wide. Just south of Lake Ontario, Onondaga has an area of 4.6 square miles and plenty of smallmouth bass for the taking.
The Junior Bassmaster World Championship showcases the top youth anglers in the world and provides youth anglers like Harrigan and McMorris the opportunity to fish competitively under BASS- the most visible tournament structure in the world.
"It's an event that continues to grow, and to see how far it has come in just four years is really amazing," said Stacy Twiggs, senior manager of the Federation Nation and youth programs. "The Federation Nations across the country have done a tremendous job to establish these youth programs."