GREENVILLE, S.C. — When Van Soles won the 2014 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open at Lake Tohopekaliga and punched his ticket to the Bassmaster Classic, he considered inviting some young anglers to experience the Big Show with him.
For the past two years, Soles has served as the boat captain for Brice Goff, a Lakeland Junior Bassmasters club member and the son of one of Soles’ best friends, Jeremy Goff.
“I really got attached to that club by fishing with them prior to winning the Southern Open,” Soles said. “I thought it was a great organization. Seeing a bunch of kids go fishing opened up my eyes to how beneficial the club was to them.”
Soles decided to invite the Top 5 finishers in the point standings from the club’s two age groups (11-14 and 15-18) to join him at the Classic. The juniors who earned an invitation to the trip were Brice Goff, Roger Weigel, Jonathan Jones, Wesley Womack, Conner Price, Chris Cooper, Jackson Williams, Chandler Cornelius, Kyle Stafford and Cole Schmucker. Because of previous obligations, Womack, Cooper and Cornelius were unable to attend the Classic.
During the Classic, Soles reserved suites for the kids at a Marriott hotel and gave them an itinerary of Classic events to attend.
“Each junior got an envelope from Soles with money for them to spend at the outdoor show,” said Cindy Weigel, who attended the Classic with her son, Roger. The Florida pro also treated the juniors to dinner one night.
Last fall, Soles held an open tournament on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes to raise funds for the trip. The tournament drew 30 teams of adults or kids accompanied by an adult and raised nearly $3,000, which covered the lodging and some travel expenses for the kids.