Yavorsky, 18, left the Classic with a big consolation prize

When 18-year-old Aaron Yavorsky departed Monday morning, beginning the two-day drive back to his home in Palm Harbor, Fla., he left with memories that will last a lifetime.

“I’m a little bit exhausted,” said the high school senior. “Everything has just started sinking in. This has been pretty cool.”

On March 22, Aaron Yavorsky entered the B.A.S.S. recordbook as the youngest angler to compete in the 54-year history of the Bassmaster Classic. Therefore, the next day he became the youngest angler to take the big bass prize on a day of Classic competition. When nobody topped Yavorsky’s 6-pound, 12-ounce bass on Sunday, he earned the $2,500 Mercury Big Bass check for the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Classic presented by Jockey Outdoors at Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees.

“I couldn’t be more proud of myself, competing against these anglers,” he said. “It’s been a crazy experience. I caught probably 200 fish this week, between practice and the tournament – 200 bass in the span of a week. I had never fished anything like Grand Lake. It’s totally different from what I’m used to. I learned a bunch of things that will help me in the future.”

Yavorsky has plans for a future in professional bass fishing. He expects to compete in the Bassmaster Opens Elite Qualifier series in 2025. The Elite Series and another Bassmaster Classic berth one day are the goals.

He was only the 10th angler to earn a Classic berth through the Bass Pro Shops Team Championship and Classic Fish-Off, which was established in 2014. Yavorsky was hoping to be the first angler from that competition to make the Top 25 cut after Day 2. He fell short of that, finishing 44th. But he did catch a five-bass limit both days and took solace in looking down the leaderboard below him and seeing the names of multiple Elite Series tournament winners.

And, of course, there was that Mercury Big Bass award. He caught the fish about 10:30 a.m. Saturday after spotting a pair of big fish on his Garmin LiveScope monitor. Classic anglers caught multiple catfish, drum and white bass during the tournament, so Yavorsky wasn’t sure what species he was targeting when he cast a 6th Sense Provoke 97DD (Paranormal 6 color) jerkbait.

“It wasn’t really relating to anything,” Yavorsky said. “I think those two fish were just moving up to spawn. They were about 8 feet deep. When I hooked that one, I didn’t even know whether it was a bass or not. It came up and boiled, then it came up and jumped. That’s when I freaked out a little bit.”

Yavorsky hoped it was the start of a big day. That didn’t happen. But there were no complaints from the young man who got to hang out in the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo on Sunday, another new experience.

 “I’d never been to a Classic or ICAST,” he said. “I got to meet a bunch of people. It was a cool experience to see everybody.”

All in all, it may well have been a life-changing 10 days for Yavorsky, who turned 18 on Friday, March 15, the first day of Bassmaster Classic pre-practice on Grand Lake.