Drive to compete is key to ULL fisherman’s tournament success

Hayden Pinho of ULL shows off two of the bass he caught during a tournament at Toledo Bend in 2020.

Like an ace pitcher who relies on a blazing fastball and wicked slider but has other “out” pitches at his command, Patterson’s Hayden Pinho does more than rely on a bladed jig and spinnerbait when he fishes for bass.

Pinho, a 21-year-old college bass angler, has an assortment of techniques he relies on to put bass in the boat from the Atchafalaya Basin to Toledo Bend to Kentucky Lake. Competition, he said, brings out the best in him as he adds to his pitch selection.

“Around (home), I’m flipping or throwing Chatterbaits or spinnerbaits. Traveling around, you kind of have to be good with everything,” said Pinho, a junior at Louisiana-Lafayette who has fished on the collegiate level since he was a freshman on the Ragin’ Cajun bass fishing team. A third-place finish at a Texas college state tournament at Lake Sam Rayburn stands as his best effort at ULL.

Coming up, Pinho, who’s majoring in industrial technology, has a handful of Major League Fishing collegiate tournaments on tap and a BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Series Championship on May 26-27 at Lake Murray, S.C. He’s ready.

Accomplished as a high-school and collegiate angler, he thrives on his competitive drive.

“To be honest with you, I think competition is always making myself want to be better,” he said.

Tournament fishing is in Pinho’s wheelhouse now as much or more as it was when he fished competitively at Patterson High School. To be sure, he always has loved to fish.

An early start

“I’ve been in a boat since I was, like, 3 years old,” he said. “I want to say when I was 11 or 12, I started bass fishing. My dad was a saltwater fishermen for a while. We went back to fishing bass and sac-a-lait, and we’ve been doing that ever since.”

Pinho credits his father, Hal Pinho Jr., and his grandfather, Halsema Pinho of Calumet, for much of his fishing success.

“(My father) means everything. Everything I know is either what I learned from him or fishing with my grandpa. He fished with us a long time,” Hayden Pinto said.

One of the most-beneficial lessons was never to be afraid to change from what you know to try to catch a fish. In other words, think outside the box.

“Sometimes it works out for the best,” he said.

Pinho’s father served as boat captain for his son in high school and enjoys being his tournament partner in local and regional tournaments. Their latest payday together was March 7 in the Media Bass tournament out of Doiron’s Landing, where their five bass weighed 16 pounds for a fourth-place finish and $1,000.

If at first you don’t succeed

Pinho was a trailblazer for high-school bass fishing in St. Mary Parish. As a freshman, he tried to start a team at Patterson High School but found no interest. He refused to give up.

“Early my sophomore year, I went, and they (school officials) gave me the go-ahead,” he said. “It all took off from there.”

Hayden Pinho (right) and his brother, Hunter, flank their father and boat captain, Hal Pinho Jr., after winning the Mississippi vs. Louisiana Battle out of Lake End Park at Lake Palourde. The Pinho brothers teamed up on the Patterson High School fishing team.2021

Pinho didn’t just chase bass in high school. He played baseball and competed in track and field for the Lumberjacks.

Pinho can look back, proudly, at qualifying for national championship tournaments all three years he fished at Patterson. Pinho’s first year of high-school bass fishing was an especially rewarding one. He was the circuit’s Angler of the Year in 2015-16 as a sophomore and qualified with Ian Doucet for nationals.

Hayden Pinho and his younger brother, Hunter, teamed up to finish second with 12.83 pounds in the May 2017 Louisiana High School B.A.S.S. Nation state tournament out of Stephensville. That qualified them for the B.A.S.S. high school national tournament the next month at Kentucky Lake in Tennessee.

The Pinho brothers qualified for nationals again in Hayden’s senior year, finishing seventh out of 171 teams on the Calcasieu River, an 11th-place finish out of 222 teams in the Atchafalaya Basin and a 20th-place finish out of 155 teams in the state tournament at Toledo Bend. They also won a 30-team Louisiana vs. Mississippi tournament.

Post-college goals

Tournament fishing after college is on Pinho’s mind, naturally.

“I guess I’d want to be on the (Bassmaster) Elites, start in the Opens and eventually make it to the top,” he said.

Pinho urges high school students who love to fish for bass to get involved in the sport through one or more of the organizations.

“Without a doubt, 100%,” he said. “It’s one of the best experiences you’ll ever get — travel around the state and country and meet so many people who have the same passion for it as you do.”

About Don Shoopman 563 Articles
Don Shoopman fishes for freshwater and saltwater species mostly in and around the Atchafalaya Basin and Vermilion Bay. He moved to the Sportsman’s Paradise in 1976, and he and his wife June live in New Iberia. They have two grown sons.