BUNA, Texas — “Learning the character you need to be in this sport really means the most to me — more than tournament wins,” said Trace O’Dell, a senior on the Buna High School fishing team. “It’s a really special breed of people — we’re made a little different than a baseball or football player.
“It’s totally different to go from a physical sport to a mental sport. It’s a battle with your brain. “
More than 380 applications from students grades 10-12 were submitted from 40 states across the nation for the 2017 Bassmaster High School All-American program. After reviewing tournament resumes, community service activities and recommendations from coaches and school officials, a panel of judges further narrowed the field to the Top 12 high school anglers in the country. O’Dell was one of those 12.
He has won a Southeast Texas High School Fishing Association (SETX) event on Sam Rayburn with a field topping 472 teams. He has two Top 5 finishes and six Top 20s to his credit. He also earned a ninth-place finish in the 2016 SETX Angler of the Year points standings with entries averaging 500 teams per year.
"Working with Trace through the local Buna High School fishing team, I have seen him grow into a young man who has the willingness to gain knowledge, skills and leadership attributes that will carry him far in life,” wrote John VanDevender, Buna High School fishing team sponsor.
Off the water, O’Dell has been the president of his high school fishing team for the past three years and leads a “Work 2 Fish” program, which helps kids earn money to participate in high school tournaments.
“Our Work 2 Fish program helps kids do miscellaneous jobs for money to travel to tournaments,” O’Dell said. “We began in eighth grade, and we needed money to travel to Lake Darnell for expenses. So, we started mowing yards, cleaning garages, cleaning fence rows in our town to earn money to go out there.”
He has also been a member of the Buna High School Student Council for four years. O’Dell served on a youth board that oversaw the development of the “02 system” for fish care at all SETX events.
Bassmaster Elite Series pro James Niggemeyer partnered with O’Dell to participate in a special Bassmaster High School All-American Bass Tournament held in conjunction with the 2017 Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department event.
“I would love to be an Elite angler — I’m going to Lamar University for a business degree to hopefully further my fishing dreams,” O’Dell said.
Read more about the Bassmaster High School All-American anglers on Bassmaster.com and look for their profiles in the September/October issue of Bassmaster magazine.