Tharpe and James win 2020 Junior National Championship

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Emily Hand

HUNTINGDON, Tenn. — Thanks in part to an afternoon flurry, Rhea County (Tenn.) seventh graders Turner Tharpe and Blake James caught 8 pounds, 2 ounces on Championship Tuesday to claim the Mossy Oak Fishing Junior Bassmaster National Championship on the Carroll County 1000 Acre Recreational Lake with a two-day total of 13-15.

They earned a $2,500 scholarship.

Editor's note: See full results.

“It feels amazing,” Turner said. “I’m not sure if we will be able to do this ever again, but I hope we will.”

Turner and James threw a wacky rig around shallow, offshore brush in a pocket most of Day 1, boat captain Brent Tharpe said. On Day 2, Turner and James started on the same structure but bright skies and calm conditions slowed the bite.

“I just told them to keep their head in the game and don’t get distracted and worry about other boats,” Brent Tharpe said. 

James and Turner had just one fish by midday, but conditions started to change as wind and some clouds entered the area. 

“The sun went behind the clouds and it started to get a little windy,” James said. “Yesterday, that seemed to be when we caught them, because it was cloudy, so that helped after lunch.”

Along with the weather change, Turner and James moved away from their shallow cover to a ditch in the middle of the pocket that had trees stacked in it. They filled their limit there with a drop shot.

“We figured out that they weren’t up shallow, so we moved out and started catching some fish,” Turner said.

Logan Lopossa and Koby Sollars from the Southside Anglers in Indiana finished second with a two-day total of 12-8 after catching four fish for 4-13 on Day 2. They earned a $1,000 scholarship. 

Sollars said he and Lopossa caught all of their fish in the morning and, while they had bites during the afternoon, they couldn’t find another keeper.

The duo landed one fish in the afternoon that fell just shy of the 12-inch size limit. Lopossa and Sollars previously qualified for the 2019 National Championship, and they used their experience from that tournament to help them during this event. 

“We were catching them on a shaky head and a paddletail worm,” Lopossa said. “We were here last year and we caught them on that (plum) color. So, we threw it on a shaky head and they just kept destroying it.” 

Lopossa and Sollars moved back and forth from deep to shallow, but one particular dropoff with stumps and gravel produced all their bites on Day 2. 

Kasen Pemberton and Hunter Prough from the Chipley High fishing team finished third with 12-3 and won an $800 scholarship, while Kyle and Nicholas Herrman from the Topeka Jr. Hawgs program held onto the Big Bass award with a 5-4 largemouth they caught on Day 1, earning them a $200 scholarship.  

With the Junior Championship complete, the focus shifts to the Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School National Championship at Kentucky Lake presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors Oct. 22-24. Action begins Thursday at 7 a.m. CT from Paris Landing State Park with weigh-in starting at 3 p.m. 

Bethel University is hosting both tournaments in conjunction with the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce and Henry County Tourism Authority.