Texas 7th-graders stand tall on Toledo Bend

MANY, La. - Logan O'Dell and Blaine Marks wanted badly to fish shallow during Sunday's Costa Bassmaster High School Central Open on Toledo Bend Reservoir.

With spring finally in the air, they knew the lake's giant largemouth would be making their way toward the shallows to spawn, and they wanted to go after them.

But every time they moved in, their team captain Brandon Marks forced them to back off - and his good coaching led to a five-bass limit that weighed a tournament-best 17 pounds, 12 ounces. The big bag was just enough to help O'Dell and Marks past the Louisiana team of Nicholas Wiggins and Lane Possoit, who placed second with 17-11.

"I called seven timeouts, and I said the same thing to them with every one of them" Brandon Marks said. "We were fishing main-lake points, and they kept wanting to move in and fish the shallow grass. I kept telling them they needed to be fishing 10-12 feet of water because this little cool snap we're having this weekend has backed the fish off a little bit."

O'Dell and Marks caught their fish, using Carolina-rigged six-inch Zoom lizards in gourd green. Their catch was anchored by a largemouth that weighed 7-11.

"We caught fish steadily throughout the day," O'Dell said. "We actually culled two fish this afternoon that ended up putting us over the top."

Despite their good day, they were surprised that 17-12 was enough.

"We really expected somebody to come in with 25 pounds," Blaine Marks said. "We thought we probably had enough to get in the Top 5, but we didn't expect to win it. It's something I'll remember forever."

O'Dell and Marks earned a $500 check made out to their high school and an automatic berth into the Costa Bassmaster High School National Championship. They also earned the right to fish with select Elite Series pros Saturday in Orange, Tex., as part of the High School Fish with the Pros Tournaments presented by Gopher Industrial.

Wiggins and Possoit also qualified for the National Championship and the Elite Experience, taking a little of the sting out of their one-ounce loss. But they couldn't help but think what might have been.

"I think we had maybe eight bites all day, and we caught five of them," Wiggins said. "Our two smallest fish of the day weighed 2 pounds, 11 ounces. We know for sure those other bites would have culled, and all we needed was an ounce."

For a brief moment, O'Dell's 7-11 lunker ranked as the largest bass ever caught in a Bassmaster High School event after eclipsing the previous record of 7-5. But the mark was shattered again during Sunday's weigh-in when Logan Bourke and Conner Chappell brought an 8-8 largemouth to the scales.

A new feature of the high school events this year in the "Costa Moment," awarded for a moving act of courage, kindness or courtesy identified on stage during the weigh-in.

The honor for this event went to Cole Talbot of Louisiana's Sulphur High School. In a field packed with anglers wearing modern equipment, Talbot was sporting the vintage Ranger Boats hat that belonged to his late grandfather, Jerry Rice.

"He passed away back in 2007, and I've been wearing it ever since," Talbot said. "If it ever blows off my head, I'll have to go swimming for it. It means that much to me. He meant the world to me."

In a field of 119 boats, the top 17 teams earned a check and the top 12 teams qualified for the National Championship.