It took three days and over 26 hours for Phoenix Junior Bassmasters Annabel Hellum, Ben Lewis and their families to make it to Huntingdon, Tenn., but the drive was well worth it.
Annabel and Ben wrapped up their first ever Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster Junior Series National Championship with a 15th-place finish with a two-day total of 7 pounds, 15 ounces after weighing in three fish for 3-12 on Day 2.
“It was really awesome (to watch them cross the stage),” Lisa Lewis, Ben’s mother said. “The experience they had and the memories they made, you can’t even put it into words. It is so awesome.”
Ben said he used a jig to catch fish while Annabel said she used a Green Pumpkin bait on a drop shot to catch her two fish on the final day.
“We are beyond proud of these two kids,” Chuck Lewis, Ben’s dad, said. “They have worked hard all year to get here. I think they represented Arizona pretty well. They fished their hearts out and looked like they had a lot of fun. I’m so excited, they did great.”
Not only were they the team to travel the furthest, Annabel, who is 9 years old, was also the only girl competing in the tournament. Brad Hellum, Annabel’s dad and the team’s boat captain for the tournament, said Annabel has been fishing since she was 1 year old. Her biggest fish so far is a 5-pounder caught from Lake Havasu.
She sported a unicorn headband on stage during the Day 2 weigh-in and proudly held up her fish, announcing to the crowd that one of her fish spit up a huge shad after she caught it.
“It was my dream to fish,” Annabel said. “(Weigh-in was) awesome. Everyone was like, ‘Yay!’ I want to thank all our sponsors and our parents. And our boat captain who is my dad. He helped us get bit. ”