JAMESTOWN, Ky. — Fourteen-year-olds Andon Goins and Blake Wheat started the year fishing the Junior Bassmaster tournaments, but the Tennessee youths “graduated” to the high school series today — and won the Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Wild Card presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors by almost 4 pounds on Lake Cumberland.
The 18-pound, 3-ounce limit of bass that put Goins and Wheat on top included a tournament big bass weighing 6 pounds, 3 ounces that fell for a Heddon Zara Spook.
The Rhea County Eagle Anglers team qualified for the event because rules allow incoming freshmen to compete with the team during the summer before they start high school, said Hank Weldon, senior manager of Bassmaster youth events.
Goins and Wheat put together a pattern focused on schooling bass during practice for the event, and they fished in and around two marinas during competition.
“We caught them in 50 to 70 feet of water,” Wheat said.
They worked the Spooks in tandem with flutter spoons to put together their catch. While their boat was over deep water, their bites came from bass holding about 6 feet below the surface.
“In the mornings, bass were active — they were blowing up — and then throughout the day we keyed in on the spoon and started catching them suspended,” Wheat said.
The lunker came in the same deep water, right off a dock. Wheat said he had just lost a 4-pounder in a dock slip, and something caught his eye swimming near the dock.
“I saw this black mark (in the water),” he said. “I just pitched to it, and I saw it turn, and it blew up on my Spook.
“I thought it had to be at least a decent fish because it was a big blow-up, and I told him to get the net.”
But neither angler paid much attention to the actual size of the bass until it was in the livewell.
“I really didn’t look at it until later, when our captain picked it up and said, ‘How big do you think this is?’” Wheat explained. “I realized it was way bigger than I thought.”
The victory qualifies the team for the Bassmaster High School Championship to be held on Kentucky Lake Aug. 8-10.
Joining them at the national event will be teams earning second through 11th places, including Asa Robertson and Matthew Vandagriff of Warren County High School, Tenn., who took second with 14-6; Kyle Workman and Pruitt Lansdale of Montgomery County High School, Ky., third with 14-5; Mackenzie Tabor and Brady Mcguire, also of Montgomery County High School, fourth with 13-14; and Drake Hemby and Gavin Totherow of Whitwell High School, Tenn., fifth with 13-6.