RUSSELL COUNTY, Ky. — Caleb Bridges and Brady Duncan saved the best for “almost last” at the Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Series at Lake Cumberland presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors held Sunday.
Bridges and Duncan were among the final teams to come to the stage at Halcomb’s Landing, and their five-bass limit of 14 pounds, 4 ounces jumped them to the top of the leaderboard. None of the final few tandems could bump them from that position, securing the tournament title for the Mt. Juliet anglers.
The duo won a $1,624 cash prize for their bass fishing team with the victory. The Top 12 teams split a total purse of $5,600 in the one-day tournament and the Top 15 of the 149 tandems competing qualified for the Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Series National Championship presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors. That event will be held July 29-31 on Chickamauga Lake in Tennessee.
Bridges and Duncan had already qualified for nationals through the Tennessee Federation, so they “fished big” at Cumberland, targeting largemouth bass bedding in the shallows along the shorelines of the sprawling 65,000-acre reservoir in south-central Kentucky. They located the bass they wanted during practice rounds on Thursday and Saturday, and they hadn’t moved when anglers hit the water again Sunday morning.
Bridges, 19, did the heavy lifting for Mt. Juliet, a collection of young anglers from the Nashville area. He used a Strike King swim jig (bluegill color) with a Reaction Innovations Spicy Beaver trailer for the best bass. A two-hour flurry of catches just after noon allowed the duo to complete their limit and eventually upgrade their total weight.
“We just kept pitching that swim jig around their beds and they were getting mad at it,” Bridges said. “We kept flipping. There were two or three fish we had to work on for 30 minutes to catch them. They finally turned on.”
Duncan, 18, said having already earned a spot in July’s National Championship provided him and Bridges the confidence to focus on the reservoir’s biggest bedding bass.
“We came here to win,” Duncan said. “Any other tournament, we’d be trying to qualify and we would have settled for (smallmouth). But that wasn’t going to cut it here.”
Jacob Lycans and William Copley of the Louisa (Ky.) Bass Club finished second with 12-14. Brandon Sales and Logan Johnson of Lenoir City (Tenn.) High School placed third with 12-10.
Will Hughes and Corbin Olsson of the East Grand Rapids (Mich.) team caught the biggest bass— a 4-6 that earned them a $100 cash prize.
The tournament was the second of four regular-season events scheduled in the High School Series this year. The first was held on the Harris Chain of Lakes in Florida in February, while events at Saginaw Bay, Mich., and Lay Lake, Ala., are scheduled for June 19 and June 26, respectively.
The high school event closed a week of competition on Lake Cumberland, with college and junior events preceding. The tournaments were hosted by the Russell County Chamber of Commerce and State Dock on Lake Cumberland.