IVA, S.C. — Although he played baseball his whole life, Christopher Bensel discovered high school bass fishing could take him to greater heights.
“When I first started on a bass fishing team, I thought it would be fun and I would be able to play other sports,” said Bensel.
“But when I saw how college fishing was going, I thought I had a better a chance of going somewhere and fishing than playing baseball. So I gave up baseball my senior year and put my head down and started focusing on one thing. It paid off.”
His successes on the Dixie High School bass club earned him a scholarship to fish for the Bethel University bass fishing team. Bensel claims he is the first high school angler from South Carolina to sign a letter of intent to join a collegiate fishing team.
The South Carolina teen recalls catching his first bass when he was 9 years old. He started fishing buddy tournaments with his dad at the age of 13.
“My dad has always fished, and once I started getting into it, he got out of tournament fishing and started teaching me ways to catch bass,” he said.
When he was in eighth grade, Bensel won the South Carolina TBF junior state championship and qualified for the TBF Junior World Championship. Since then he has recorded nine victories at the South Carolina high school fishing league level and was a member of the Dixie High School team that won four TBF South Carolina High School State Championships.
Bensel and his partner, Ben Stone, finished sixth in the B.A.S.S. High School National Invitational on Douglas Lake in 2014 to qualify for the Bassmaster High School Classic at Lay Lake, where they finished fourth. They also took eighth place in the 2015 Bassmaster High School Classic in South Carolina.
Added to his fishing accomplishments was Bensel’s selection for the Bassmaster All-State High School team, which surprised him.
“It was neat,” he said. “I knew there was a bunch of good anglers in South Carolina. It was shocking, but I was glad it happened.”
Dixie High School’s fishing coach, Eddy Stone, said he thinks Bensel’s dedication to bass fishing made him an obvious choice for the All-State squad.
“He is a tough, solid fisherman overall,” Stone said. “He just breathes bass fishing.”
Bensel said he hopes to become a professional angler one day and follow in the footsteps of another Dixie High School grad, 2015 Bassmaster Classic champion Casey Ashley.
For now, though, Bensel is preparing for his freshman year on the Bethel University bass team.
“I feel like college fishing is the best bet to get my name out and let people get to know who I am,” he said.
A lot of bass fishing fans will know him soon enough if he continues to excel at the collegiate level.