The youngest Junior Championship team

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Andrew Canulette
Matthew and Andrew Lavoie pose with their parents. The family drove 18 hours from Rhode Island so the brothers could complete in the Junior Championship.

HUNTINGDON, Tenn. – When brothers Andrew and Matthew Lavoie made their way to the stage during the first day of the Costa Bassmaster Junior Championship, there wasn’t a heck of a lot to see.

That’s not because the Lavoies had a bad bite on Tuesday here on Carroll County 1,000 Acre Recreational Lake in western Tennessee, however.

Quite the contrary. After the first of two days of fishing, Team Rhode Island was in seventh place overall with a five-fish limit that weighed 4 pounds, 3 ounces.

It’s not the biggest bag, but the Lavoies aren’t the biggest boys. Andrew is 9, and Matthew is 8, and they are among the youngest competitors in this year’s Junior Championship. So when they got onstage for the weigh-in, Andrew (4 foot, 5 inches) and Matthew (4 foot, 2 inches,) could hardly be seen by the audience from behind the podium where the adult Elite Series pros display their biggest bass. Andrew’s cap poked a few inches above the podium, but Matthew was blocked entirely.

In fact, tournament director Hank Weldon joked that the podium wasn’t designed with some of the pint-sized junior anglers in mind. And Weldon, who’s not the tallest fellow himself, towered over the Lavoie brothers as he talked to them about their catch on Tuesday.

So this year’s smallest championship anglers hail from the country’s smallest state. But that doesn’t mean that Andrew and Matthew Lavoie are just happy to be here. They’re fishing for a championship, and on a lake that produced a 28-pound bag on the final day of competition last year, anything is possible.

Andrew, an incoming fifth grader, has history here, as well. He and his cousin Cameron Rhodes teamed to finish fifth overall in last year’s inaugural Bassmaster Junior Championship. Rhodes has moved on to the high school ranks, and now the brothers from Coventry, Rhode Island, figure to be a junior level force for several years.

Andrew caught three keepers on Tuesday, and Matthew added a pair of bass that contributed to a full limit for Team Rhode Island.

“In the morning, it wasn’t bad at all, and the fish were biting,” Andrew said. “There actually was a little bit of rain. But by the 10 or 11 o’clock hour, it was really hot and fishing slowed down a lot.”

The brothers caught 20 or so fish on Tuesday, but the five fish they weighed were the only keepers.

The boys fish often back home with their father, Paul, but they are active in other sports too. Both are good athletes, and Matthew in particular said he equally prefers soccer to fishing. The incoming third grader said he’s also into basketball and baseball, but doesn’t have much time for cartoon characters.

He does have a favorite pro angler, though.

“I like Kevin VanDam,” Matthew said.

Andrew Lavoie said of all sports, he’d rather be fishing.

“I’m a fishing freak,” he said. “I love it. And my favorite angler is probably Casey Ashley.”

Paul Lavoie said his boys have been impressed with the entire Bassmaster Junior Championship experience since they made the 18-hour drive here.

“We try to tell them it’s not if you win, but what you get out of it going forward,” he said. “Most kids in the country don’t get to experience this. And Andrew, he’s gotten to do it twice. You get to walk across the stage that Kevin VanDam walks across; that Stephen Browning walks across. It’s the tanks they put their fish in. You got to do that. It’s been a wonderful time for them.”

The final weigh-in of the Costa Bassmaster Junior Championship is scheduled to begin at 1:45 p.m. Wednesday in downtown Huntingdon, Tenn. In all, championship teams from 28 states (and another from Canada) are participating. Anglers are 7-14 years old, and are considered the future of the sport.