High School: Hamblin and Brown win at Big Sam

With 18 pounds, 2 ounces, Aiden Hamblin and Austin Brown take home the win at the Strike King Bassmaster High School Series at Sam Rayburn Reservoir.

ASPER, Texas — Typically, anglers strive for something unique en route to tournament success, but for Aiden Hamblin and Austin Brown, a shameless dose of redundancy delivered victory in the Strike King Bassmaster High School Series at Sam Rayburn Reservoir.

Sacking up a five-bass limit of 18 pounds, 2 ounces, the seniors representing the Pilot Point Bearcats Bass Team edged their nearest competitors, Ridge Mabile and Evan Aucoin of the Assumption Mustangs Bass Club by a margin of 2-1.

Earning the $2,214 team prize, Hamblin and Brown claimed their spot in the Strike King Bassmaster High School Series Championship scheduled for Chickamauga Lake, Aug. 1-3.

“This means the world to us,” Brown said. “We’ve been at this for four years and we’ve had some really close finishes, but we’ve never been able to secure the win.

“Especially on one of the greatest lakes in the country, to come out here in May — the best time to fish Rayburn — and win, that means a lot to us and our team.”

Hamblin said he and Brown stayed on the lake’s west side and fished coves in Caney Creek. They rotated through three main spots and targeted flooded bushes, trees and stumps.

“We fished another event on Rayburn in March and it was 6 feet low at that time,” Hamblin said. “We finished fifth in that event and we figured out what was going to be under water (when the lake rose), so that helped us.”

Noting that he and his partner caught all of their fish in 5 to 8 feet, Hamblin said they fished a Texas-rigged black/blue Strike King Rage Menace on a 3/0 Gamakatsu straight-shank hook with a pegged 3/16-ounce weight, wacky-rigged 5- and 6-inch Yum Dingers (black/blue and junebug, respectively) and a Spro Bronzeye Popping Frog.

The latter produced their best bites, including a pair of 5-pound, 7-ounce kickers. Brown said the bait’s color pattern — black body with chartreuse legs — played a key role in tempting big bites.

“The bluegill the bass were feeding on had bright (chartreuse) tips on their tails, so that frog imitated them really well — it stood out on top of the water,” Brown said. “You had to get it really shallow and in the shade and then you had to pop it really slow. They would pop it after the pause.”

As Hamblin explained, he and Brown would switch to the plastics in the less dense cover. The wacky rig ultimately out-performed the Texas rig.

“I was skipping the wacky rig under branches and popping it,” Hamblin said. “It was hit or miss. Sometimes, they’d hit it after I’d pop it. Sometimes, they’d hit it after a long pause.”

The winners had their limit by 7:30 a.m. and culled throughout the day until finishing their weight at 1:30 p.m. Brown caught the two 5-7s on the frog — one at 11 and the other at 1:30.

“The first 5-pounder that I caught, the reel wasn’t connected to the rod very well and when I set the hook, the reel exploded off the rod,” Brown said. “I had to hold the reel and fight the fish at the same time. It was (nearly) a catastrophic event.”

Amplifying the day’s drama, Brown said their second kicker was nearly identical to the first.

“The two 5-7s were on the same tree about 2 1/2 hours apart,” he said. “It was right at the end of the day and we were like, ‘Let’s just roll back to that tree where we caught that first big fish.’

“I cast the same frog and the strike was identical to our first big fish. That tree won it for us, for sure.”

Mabile and Aucoin finished second with 16-1.

Connor Crawford and Brody Beam of the Liberty County Anglers won the Phoenix Boats Big Bass award for their 6-12. Crawford and Beam finished 11th with 14-7.

The Jasper-Lake Sam Rayburn Area Chamber of Commerce and Jasper County hosted the event.