The road to the Junior Championship

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Andrew Canulette
Hunter Meadows, left, won the Bassmaster Junior National Championship last year as part of Team Oklahoma. His 12-year-old younger brother Cameron, right, will represent the state in this year's championship along with teammate Austin Hubbard.

HUNTINGDON, Tenn. – It’s 9 o’clock on a Monday night, and 12-year old Cameron Meadows is 600 miles from home, sitting in a bass boat which is parked on the edge of a small motel parking lot.

Under the orange glow of a few vapor lights, he quietly rigs up a fishing rod. His mind wanders nine hours into the future, where he and nearly 60 other young anglers from around the U.S. will begin competing in the Costa Bassmaster Junior National Championship on Carroll County’s 1,000 Acre Recreation Lake here in rural western Tennessee.

But truly, the competition began months before, when thousands of bass anglers ages 7-13 were fishing junior tournament trails back home.

For Meadows, that was back in Norman, Okla. That’s where he fished his way to becoming one half of Team Oklahoma – one of 29 states that will be represented in the two-day national championship event on Tuesday and Wednesday. Austin Hubbard, also 12, is the other half of Team Oklahoma, and he too qualified for the national title event by outfishing fellow anglers back home in Norman.

Though he’s only going into the seventh grade, Meadows is no stranger to competition. He fishes with his dad Mike in numerous tournaments back home, and his brother Hunter, 14, was on the team that won the inaugural Bassmaster Junior National Championship last year. Hunter attempted to qualify for the 2016 Costa High School National Championship, also being held in western Tennessee this week, but failed to make the cut. He’s in Huntingdon, however, offering moral support for his younger brother and frequent fishing partner.

Cameron said just because his brother won a national title last year, that doesn’t give him any advantages heading into this year’s championship. He said he’s an intense young man, but he knows he’ll have to stay focused and patient if he’s going to outperform the other young guns on the water.

“I try not to worry about [anything] and just go out there and fish and have fun,” Cameron said. “Sometimes, that’s really hard for me to do. I really want to do well.”

Hunter displayed patience in the 2015 championship and it paid off. He and partner Aaryn Minyard didn’t catch a fish on the first day of competition on the same lake last year, but they rebounded in a big way on the final day of fishing. The duo lit into 28.7 pounds of fish in a span of about 90 minutes, which vaulted them to the top of the leaderboard and the title.

Cameron’s aware of how an angler’s fortune can turn around in a hurry.

“I’m nervous, and I wish we were on the fish a little bit better,” he said on Monday night. “But the same thing that happened to [Hunter] can happen to me. With the flick of a switch, you can catch 28 pounds.”

Hunter didn’t have any particular words of wisdom for Cameron on Monday night, but he did, after all, pinpoint a space in last year’s championship that produced 28 pounds in an hour and a half.

But still…

“It’s kind of like I need to live up and defend his title,” Cameron said. “But it doesn’t bother me much. I don’t think it really makes a difference other than I intimidate the other anglers because I know where he caught those fish last year, but I don’t think that give me a big advantage. [The fish might not be there again this year.]”

Mike Meadows will captain the boat for Team Oklahoma. He said he’s confident that his son and his teammate Hubbard will catch some fish.

“My boys know a lot more at this age than I did,” he said. “I didn’t even know how to throw a baitcaster until I was 14 or 15. But (Cameron’s) got it down…Hopefully we win, but we’ll have fun [either way].”

Day 1 weigh-in for the Bassmaster Junior National Championship will begin at 1:45 p.m. at Carroll County 1,000 Acre Recreation Lake, 350 Reedy Creek Road, in Huntingdon. Check out www.bassmaster.com for updates and results.