Alex Heintze and Justin Watts credit an obscure technique for their nearly 10-pound lead going into the championship round of the Bassmaster High School National Championship on Saturday.
What they are doing on Kentucky Lake will surprise local experts and touring pros alike, but with one day remaining, details on their pattern are yet to come.
After two days of fishing, the Livingston Parish Bassmasters team has a total weight of 43 pounds, 14 ounces. The score was anchored by Thursday’s catch of 23-4, which ranks as the heaviest of the tournament.
In second place — also from Louisiana — are Cole Moore and Casey Haymon of Anacoco High School with 34-7.
In fact the Top 3 spots are occupied by Louisiana schools: Cade Fortenberry and Braden Blanchard of St. Amant High are in third place with 34-1.
Heintze hinted about what they are not doing, which goes against the textbook summertime tactic the lake is known for.
“Kentucky Lake is the No. 1 ledge-fishing lake in the nation,” said Heintze, a 16-year-old junior from Baton Rouge. “That’s what just about everyone else is doing this week.”
Taking a cue from their South Louisiana roots, fishing the lake’s signature main-river channel dropoffs is not remotely part of their strategy.
“We don’t fish ledges back home because they don’t exist,” added Watts, 15, a sophomore from Baton Rouge. “We only fish in shallow water, and that’s what is working for us here, too.”
You’d never believe that after hearing the team has 10 areas where they fish, which is how the summertime rotation of ledge fishing works. The team has never explored the ledges, only making casual stops after filling limits of five bass.
“We had our limit today and yesterday by 9:30 a.m.,” Heintze said. “We haven’t even been to any of the other areas.”
The tactic of sticking to what works at home is paying off for another top team from Louisiana. Fortenberry and Blanchard of St. Amant High School are in third place with 34-1.
The team caught a five-bass limit by noon, based on the strength of fishing shallow water.
“The heavy rain overnight made our water dirty, but it should improve by Saturday,” Blanchard said. “What will help is sunshine.”
They will have plenty of that on Saturday. The forecast calls for sunny skies with a high of 91 degrees.
Friday the Top 10 teams have the day off. Teams ranked 11th through 50th places will fish at Carroll County Thousand Acre Recreational Lake. The two highest finishing teams from Friday will join the Top 10 for the final day Saturday on Kentucky Lake.
The championship is the culmination of seasonal qualifying events. A record of 134 teams representing 37 states and Ontario are competing in the High School National Championship.
Teams are competing for $75,000 in scholarships and prizes. Schools participating in the B.A.S.S. Nation High School program were eligible to qualify two-angler teams for the championship. Teams also qualified through B.A.S.S. regional events and sanctioned affiliate tournament trails.