Cutting short their fishing time proved beneficial to Natchitoches Central High School anglers Hunter Owens and Wes Rollo during Thursday’s opening round of the Bassmaster High School Series National Championship at Kentucky Lake in Tennessee. 

With a couple of their bass struggling in the livewell, Rollo and Owens decided to check in about an hour early and weighed a five-bass limit of 19 pounds, 11 ounces to take the lead. 

The anglers said their day went as expected from what they learned in practice.

“We started out in practice messing around deep and shallow and in between,” Rollo said. “We found the fish we wanted early on this morning and caught them real quick.” 

The bite hit a short lull around 9 a.m. But then Rollo caught a 7-2 largemouth, and they culled three times during the next five minutes. When a couple of their fish started bellying up in the livewell, Rollo and Owens headed back to the Paris Landing ramp at 12:40 p.m., so they wouldn’t lose any fish and suffer the penalties.

Owens said they switched between a couple of lures throughout the morning before finally settling on one near the end of their day. He said he believes their areas spots have enough bass to produce the same results today. 

“We were conservative today,” Owens said. “We didn’t just catch them and catch them (in the same place). We got what we needed for our limit.” Then they tried a couple of new areas and caught a few bass but didn’t cull. 

The leaders are among 670 anglers from 337 high school teams competing for the national title. The teams qualified through a series of state and regional tournaments. 

Two high school anglers are teamed in each boat with an adult boat captain, who serves as a mentor and operates the outboard motor.  

The full field of teams will compete again today, but the field will be cut to the Top 12 for Saturday’s final round. The teams are vying for $118,000 in scholarship money.