(Jun 11, 2016 - Durant, OK)
Bassmaster Elite Series pros and the nation’s best high school anglers fished side-by-side Saturday in the second annual Bassmaster High School All-American event, as part of the GEICO Bassmaster BASSfest presented by Chocotaw Casino and Resort.
The program was created to reward young anglers who have gone above and beyond — on the water in competition, as well as off the water in school, leadership and community service — and to let them learn from the nation’s best professional anglers.
The consensus at the conclusion of the fun-fishing derby on Oklahoma’s McGee Creek Lake was that the pros learned from the high school anglers, too.
“When I had the opportunity to participate in this event, it was a no-brainer,” said Bassmaster Elite Series pro Gary Klein. “This is what bass fishing is all about — it’s an opportunity for us to give back and share our experiences. I’ll fish every High School All-American event I can be a part of.”
The 12 high school anglers were paired by random draw with 12 pros who volunteered their time.
Cody Stahl, a Georgia angler representing CrossPointe Christian Academy, won the one-day event with his Elite Series partner, J Todd Tucker. The pair caught a total of 11 pounds, 7 ounces. Each team could only weigh two fish. One had to be caught by the All-American angler.
“On our first spot this morning, J Todd caught an 8-13, and that was so exciting,” Stahl said. “That really set the tone for the rest of the day.
“That catch gave me the confidence to stay out deep,” continued Stahl, who had spent several days practicing on McGee Creek before the derby. “Throughout the day, I only had a couple more bites, and at noon, we went to one more spot were I knew there were giants.”
Stahl hooked a large bass that ended up coming off before he could get it to the boat.
“I set the hook, and it was like setting the hook into a brick wall,” Stahl said. “That bass had to have been every bit of 12 pounds, and she came unbuttoned. It was heartbreaking, but J Todd kept me calm.”
Tucker said he had a great day spending time with the accomplished young angler.
“I thought I was going to have to do a lot of teaching, but I’m the one that learned so much,” Tucker said. “Cody had already been on the water for three days, and he was absolutely 100 percent dialed in on what the fish were doing and why they were doing it. I was amazed at the knowledge Cody has.”
All of the pros shared his sentiment, and many said they are excited about the future of professional fishing with aspiring pros being so skilled at such a young age.
“When I was growing up, someone always took the opportunity to take me hunting or fishing or teach me something new,” said Elite Series angler Bill Lowen, who fished with All-American angler Mason Moore of Waynesburg, Ky. “And, if I hadn’t had those experiences, I might not be standing here today. “
“The High School All-American program gives me hope for the future of our sport,” said Elite Series pro Cliff Crochet, who was partnered with High School All-American Bailey Fain. “These guys are chosen on multiple qualifications from academics to community service, and what they do outside of fishing is just as impressive.”
“This whole experience is a dream come true,” said Fain of Lenoir City, Tenn. “The ultimate goal for me is to be able to do what these guys do — fish for a living — and this is perfect way to realize that.”
Only 12 young anglers were selected from a pool of more than 200 nominees to be a part of the 2016 Bassmaster High School All-American Fishing Team. The high school anglers traveled from all over the country to McGee Creek Lake from as far west as Arizona and Colorado and as far east as Massachusetts.
Read profiles of each of the Bassmaster High School All-American anglers at Bassmaster.com/High-School and look for more on them in the next issue of Bassmaster Magazine.
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