PARIS, Tenn. — Steven Swann and Logan Henderson picked up where they left off back in April when they won the Costa Bassmaster High School Southern Open.
Swann and Henderson of the Springville (Ala.) Anglers team won the Southern Open with 24 pounds, 1 ounce — setting a record for the heaviest winning weight in a Bassmaster High School tournament — and followed up today with a five-bass limit weighing 23-12 to take over first place in the Costa Bassmaster High School National Championship presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods at Kentucky Lake.
The anglers believed the change in the weather from hot and sunny to cloudy and windy today helped their pattern. “We got a lot of little bites in practice, but today it seemed like the bigger ones were all fired up,” Swann said.
Despite the weather change, the team didn’t have to make any adjustments to catch fish. The wind and waves, however, did limit them to fishing only one of the 10 spots they found in practice. “It was rough,” Swann said of the waves. “We both felt like we were going to get seasick.”
Henderson noted they caught their limit by about 7:45 a.m. and had bites in 30- to 45-minute intervals throughout the day. “We caught fish early, and it just seemed like when the wind picked up the baitfish got moving and the bass just started eating,” he said.
The Springville Anglers team is making up for a disappointing finish in last year’s Costa Bassmaster High School National Championship. They weighed in 10 pounds the first day last year and blanked the next day.
The leaders are among 461 anglers from 231 high school teams competing for the national title. The teams qualified for the national championship through a series of state and regional tournaments.
Two high school anglers are teamed in each boat with a coach, who serves as a mentor for the high school anglers and operates the outboard motor.
Henry County High School anglers Shawn Burkhart and Gavin Gordon moved into second place with a 22-11 limit.
“The weather conditions limited us to where we could go,” Burkhart said. “We threw pretty much the same stuff that we threw in practice. We had a really good practice, and it really showed out today.”
They tried some of their best places in the morning and had a limit early — they left to try some other spots where they knew schools of bass started biting later in the day. However those spots failed to produce, so they tried to go back to their early morning areas. When they found those spots were already full of boats, they tried some new places and finished the day culling through about 35 keepers.
Gordon said he and his teammate caught about 25 pounds worth of bass in practice and are confident they will have plenty of places to try if the weather cooperates the next two days.
The Moody Fishing team of Jackson Isbell and Trent Robinson weighed in a 22-7 limit to take over third place. Isbell said they had to move around to different places today because of the weather. “It was perfect conditions in practice for what we were doing but today it wasn’t there,” he said.
Robinson said they caught most of the fish early and late in the day. “We got most of our bites in the morning and then right before we weighed in,” he said.
The rough water and wind apparently worked in favor of some teams as 14 limits of 20 pounds or better were weighed in. Rounding out the Top 5 teams were Reese Jones and Dalton Johnson of the Arkansas Youth Anglers and the Brentwood High School team of Luke Byerly and Bryson Mills, with both teams weighing in 22-1.
The full field of teams will compete again on Friday, but the field will be cut to the Top 12 for the final day of fishing on Saturday. The teams are vying for $70,750 in scholarship money. B.A.S.S. and its sponsors are awarding $22,750 to the competitors, and Bethel University in McKenzie, Tenn., will be presenting the remaining $48,000 to the winners.
Tournament officials are consulting with National Weather Service authorities to determine whether weather conditions will be suitable for fishing Friday. Thunderstorms with heavy rains were predicted as tropical storm Cindy moves inland. If conditions permit, the prep anglers take off at 5:30 a.m. CT from Paris Landing State Park and return at 1:45 p.m. to weigh in at the same location. The final weigh-in will switch locations to downtown Paris at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Henry County Tourism, Carroll County and Bethel University are hosting the national championship.
Update: Day 2 is officially postponed until Saturday, June 24th, due to weather.