CLEWISTON, Fla. — Florida anglers caught five bass weighing more than 8 pounds apiece during the Florida B.A.S.S. Nation High School State Championship, May 30-31, at Lake Okeechobee.
"The fishing was pretty phenomenal,” said Jeff Brooks, Florida B.A.S.S. Nation youth director. “The lake was dropping, which was pulling the fish to the outside edges of the weeds.”
The tournament drew 29 high school teams and 14 teams in the junior division (ages 8-14) and all but one team caught limits both days of the event.
The Strawberry Crest High team of Colten Smith and Rofet White won the high school division with a five-fish limit weighing 34.42 pounds. Second place went to Cole Schmucker and Chandler Cornelius of George Jenkins High with a 33.7-pound limit, and Strawberry Crest High anglers Russell Butler and Jon North took third with 33.52.
Brent Randall and Giancarlo Russo won the junior division with 35.42 pounds.
The Top 3 teams qualified for the 2015 Costa Bassmaster High School National Championship presented by TNT Fireworks, July 22-25, at Kentucky Lake.
“We have always been a state where if kids were registered to a club, they could fish the championship,” said Brooks, adding that to qualify for the national championship, the anglers had to also compete in three Florida B.A.S.S. Nation high school opens. Next year, Florida will hold three qualifying tournaments leading up to the state championship.
Brooks praised Ramon Iglesias, Roland Martin Marina and Resort general manager, and his staff for hosting the state championship and welcoming the young anglers and their families.
“It has been a great venue for us,” said Brooks. “On the second day of the championship, a couple of guys broke down at launch time and we called Chet Douthit (former Bassmaster Classic qualifier and a guide at Roland Martin’s Marina) and Mike Krause (the tackle store manager for Iglesias), and they got out of bed and served as captains for the kids that day.”
The local Publix grocery store provided every contestant and boat captain with a 6-inch sub sandwich each morning to take with them in the boats. The winners received gift cards donated by the Fort Lauderdale Bass Pro Shops as well as trophies made by MTM Recognition, the same company that makes the trophies for the Bassmaster Elite Series and the GEICO Bassmaster Classic.
Florida B.A.S.S. Nation volunteers who helped run the championship were Martin and Denny Bozeman, Rick and Richard Adgate and Brooks.