Two Bossier City girls didn’t have a weigh-in bag full of bragging-sized bass when they crossed the stage March 13 for the Louisiana Bass Federation High School State Championship weigh-in at Caddo Lake.
They had two full bags, Alexis Virgillito, 14, carrying one and Taylor Bacot, 15, hauling the other. Representing Parkway High School, Virgillito and Bacot were ready to shock the crowd and the nation in a mostly male-dominated sport.
“I felt like the top dog. I had a little spring to my step. When we were walking up everybody’s eyes were as big as basketballs,” Taylor said later.
Their adult captain/coach, Alexis’ father, Bradley Virgillito, who was with them on the water that memorable day, recalls that his eyes were very watery and said, “I was tearing up when they were walking across the stage with those fish.”
And for good reason. Virgillito, a deputy with the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Department and School Resource Officer at Parkway High School, knew what caliber “hawgs” were finning around inside those bags.
The tale at the scale said it all. Those five bass distributed in two weigh-in bags combined for 30 pounds, 3 ounces, including a 7-pound, 3-ounce giant, best in a 109-boat field. The crowd was wowed.
“It was definitely one of the best days of my life,” Alexis said.
Another big win
But hold on, folks.
On March 26, they did it again. The two didn’t catch quite as many fish, but they still caught more than anybody else to win their second title this month. This time it was the North Louisiana High School Bass tournament, once again on Caddo.
They weighed in three fish totaling 17.71 pounds and Alexis also won first place in the Big Bass category with a 9.61 lunker. Back-to-back victories on the lake was enough for them to earn the title “Caddo Queens” among some on social media. In winning that tournament, they became the first-ever all girl team to win an event in the organization.
But back to that huge stringer and that first big bag and win.
Alexis, an eighth-grader at Elm Grove Middle School, and Taylor, a Parkway High School freshman, became the first all-girl team to win a TBF event in the nation and shattered the record for the largest five-bass stringer weighed during a TBF event in Louisiana.
It was only their third tournament together as a team.
Right behind the state champions were Calvary Baptist Academy’s Noah and Mark Trant, runners-up with 28 pounds, 15 ounces. Captain Shreve High School’s Brody Page and Stone Smith were third with 21 pounds, 8 ounces.
Taylor, the daughter of Kyle and Melissa Bacot, caught the biggest bass in the tournament. Like eight other keepers they hooked and boated, it bit on a black/chartreuse wooden crank bait painted by Todd Cloinger.
She was ready and set hook around 11:15 a.m. — a limit weighing 24.79 pounds already in the livewell — with a Dobyns spinning rod. She and Alexis both use Dobyns Rods, models DX703SF and DX743SF.
Crestfallen after losing a bass estimated at 8 pounds a few minutes earlier, Taylor handled that big bass like a seasoned bass angler.
“I was real excited about that. I’d already lost a big fish. I was kind of hoping. I cast out, hooked it and reeled it in. I was happy we got it. It was kind of overwhelming. I was at a loss for words, breath, everything,” she said.
After Bacot hooked up with the 7-3, their captain weighed each bass in the livewell again.
“I told the girls, ‘If you don’t have 30, you’re not going to miss it by much. This is a day for the memory books,’” Virgillito said, noting he was along for the unbelievable ride. “I’ll put it to you this way, when they were catching fish, I was more excited than they were.”
They were fishing a ditch in 3- to 4-foot depths, said Virgillito.
“It was nice. It was awesome. When we got the fish out of the livewell, I was shaking. I was nervous at the same time, too,” Alexis said.
Sharing the celebration with family
Alexis’ mother, Anne Kirspel, also of Bossier City, was at the weigh-in and excited for and proud of her daughter. Alexis’ stepmother, Shari Virgillito, was also on hand to cheer the girls on, as was the Virgillitos’ youngest child, Bradley Virgillito Jr., 5, who’s already being groomed as a bass angler.
Also in the crowd was Gary Doolittle, Taylor’s grandfather who has taken her bass fishing since she was four. Her older brother, Christopher Bacot, who also fishes for Parkway and has been another bass fishing mentor, joined in the celebration.
As a result of the win, Alexis and Taylor, who live in the same neighborhood and have been friends approximately three years, qualified for the 13th annual High School Fishing World Finals & National Championship in Florence, Alabama, on June 22-25 at nearby Pickwick Lake and Wilson Lake. The TBF’s Student Angler Federation fishermen come from most states in the U.S. and other countries like Canada, Zimbabwe and South Africa. The event is billed as the granddaddy of all national high school events.
“If we have spots like we know fish are at, then, hopefully, we’ll catch one fish,” Taylor said. “That’s our goal. Maybe two.”
Perhaps, just perhaps, the Louisiana girls will treat the national scene with a déjà vu from Caddo Lake and the Sportsman’s Paradise.
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