ANDERSON, S.C. — Tristan Stewart and DJ Johnson III caught a three-bass limit weighing 11 pounds, 1 ounce to grab the Day 1 lead at the 2023 Bassmaster Junior National Championship Friday on Lake Hartwell.
The boys, who are part of the Mt. Pleasant (Tenn.) Junior Bass Team, hold a narrow 4-ounce lead in the tournament, which boasts 123 young duos from 32 different states.
Stewart and Johnson, both 13, enjoyed a consistent bite of largemouth and spotted bass, estimating they caught about 20 fish overall. The best of the bunch was a spot that weighed in the 4-pound range.
Stewart caught that bass in about 15 feet of water, but he preferred to not divulge his bait of choice. That’s because he and Johnson think they can repeat their performance on Day 2 and win the championship.
“We saw it on the Garmin LiveScope,” Stewart said. “It took me a minute or two to get it in, but it was fun. We found a spot in practice that we liked, and we fished it alone (early on Friday). But we had some other boats around us later in the day.”
Johnson said steady bites helped him shake off a hot afternoon on Hartwell. A steady wind made temperatures in the lower 90s bearable, but there’s no doubt the summer heat was rough on all the youngsters as the afternoon sun got overhead.
“Still, today was exciting,” Johnson said. “I started bass fishing was I was 9 or 10 and I’ve gotten a lot better. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
So is their captain, Glen Stewart, who said he expects a tight finish to the championship.
“When the limit is three, it’s gonna be a game of ounces,” Glen said. “It’s hard to separate from the field. We’ll do the same thing we did today, and if we can get fish that weigh 3 pounds, I think we’ll have a good shot at winning.”
Other top teams on Day 1 include Kale Temple and Luke Schnell of Georgia’s Hart County Junior Anglers, currently in second place with three bass totaling 10-13. They are followed by Cody Carboni and William Reynolds from Live Oak (La.) Junior High, who weighed a limit registering 10-10, and Colton Hembree and Tyson Browning of the Bluegrass (Ky.) Junior Bassmasters, who are fourth with 10-7.
Hembree and Browning weighed a 4-15 heavy that gave them the big bass on Day 1.
Caleb and Isaac Toubia of Kickback (Kan.) High School are fifth, also with a 10-7 limit. Caden Hall and Caleb Wilson of Russell County (Ky.) Middle School caught a 4-14 on Friday and settled into sixth place with three bass totaling 9-6, while Zac Arnold and Ross Clark of the Good Hope (Ala.) Fishing Team caught a 9-6 limit on Friday as well.
The winners in the two-day tournament will collect $2,000 in scholarship money. The squad in second place will win $1,000, third will earn $500, and fourth will take home $400.
Teams qualified for the championship through state competitions and four different Junior Opens held earlier this year on Florida’s Harris Chain of Lakes, Alabama’s Lay Lake, Tennessee’s Chickamauga Lake and the Red River in Louisiana.
Day 2 of the 2023 Bassmaster Junior National Championship is scheduled to begin at 6:20 ET at Green Pond Landing and Event Center. Weigh-in will begin at 1:20 p.m., with the champions being crowned shortly after the final bass are weighed. Full coverage is available on Bassmaster.com.
Visit Anderson is hosting the tournament.
2023 Bassmaster Junior Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
2023 Bassmaster Junior Series Premier Sponsors: Bass Pro Shops, Dakota Lithium, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Progressive Insurance, Ranger Boats, Rapala, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha
2023 Bassmaster Junior Series Supporting Sponsors: AFTCO, Daiwa, Garmin, Lew’s, Marathon, Triton Boats, VMC
2023 Bassmaster Junior Series Youth Sponsors: 13 Fishing, Seaguar, Shimano