Talk about making the bites count.
Justin Watts and Alex Heintze of the Livingston Parish Bassmasters had only five bites Wednesday on Kentucky Lake, but they came quick and early.
The resulting catch weighing 20 pounds, 10 ounces has the anglers from Baton Rouge in the lead at the Bassmaster High School National Championship.
The early success influenced the anglers to abandon their hot spot on the lake at 10:30 a.m., with the idea of saving it for Thursday.
“The day went as we planned,” Watts said. “We just decided to go look for other similar areas.”
“Our primary area is about 300 yards long, so we wanted to find more water so we can start there tomorrow, do the same thing over again,” Heintze added.
That was a good idea, considering the second-place team of Matt Shirley and Cade Barnes are in easy striking distance of the lead. The team, from Tuscaloosa County High School in Alabama, finished the day with a weight of 20 pounds.
They, too, had an early bite that resonated with fishing successes of the top teams.
“We have about 20 spots and two different patterns going for us,” Shirley said.
He did not disclose bait details, but the one-two punch involves a reaction lure, followed up by a finesse bait.
“Once we find the sweet spot of where the bass are holding, we can slow down and hone in on them,” Barnes said.
The best scenario for the team is to have most of those spots still saved from practice.
“Today we didn’t get to all of our fishing spots, so we have plenty of water,” Barnes added.
That can be good and bad on this fishery. During summer, a majority of the best bass fishing happens offshore. The bass favor the river-generated current that provides cooler water and attracts baitfish. The bass follow the food, meaning success hinges on being at the right place, at the right time.
The championship is the culmination of a season of qualifying events held throughout the U.S. and Canada. A record number of B.A.S.S.-affiliated high schools are competing in the championship — 132 qualified teams representing 37 states and Ontario.
Thursday the tournament field is cut to the Top 10 teams. Those ranked 11th through 50th will fish on Friday at Carroll County Thousand Acre Recreational Lake. The objective is to provide a second qualifying chance while bringing another level of competition to the event. The two highest finishing teams join the Top 10 for the final day Saturday on Kentucky Lake.
Thursday’s launch will take place at Paris Landing State Park at 5:30 a.m. The weigh-in will take place at the same location at 1:45 p.m.
Teams are competing for $75,000 in scholarships and prizes. Schools participating in the B.A.S.S. Nation High School Nation program were eligible to qualify two-angler teams for the championship.