Empty livewell motivates Baton Rouge teen to high school fishing success

Grayson Bonfils

Grayson Bonfils remembers well when he was so fired up to fish his high school bass tournament, ready to cast and catch.

That the Baton Rouge teenager logged a big ol’ scratch, a fat zero, with nary a bite that day hardly dampened his burning desire for competitive bass fishing.

“The first tournament I ever fished was at Bayou Segnette,”  Bonfils said. “I remember it like it was yesterday. I didn’t even catch a fish … didn’t even get a bite.”

Now a senior taking online classes via University View Academy, he’s coming off a season in which he qualified for and fished the 2023 Bassmaster Junior National Championship with Gage Collins in late July at Lake Hartwell in South Carolina. The East Baton Rouge Bassmasters team also fished the Louisiana High School Bass Nation Championship in April and was sixth with 16.31 pounds.

“The best year I ever had was with him,” Bonfils said about Collins, who graduated this past spring from Central Private School.

Final season

The hard-fishing bass angler is looking forward to his final season fishing the Louisiana High School Bass Nation circuit. After it’s finished, hopefully not before next summer at nationals, he hopes to attend LSU-S and fish on what he believes is the strongest collegiate fishing team in Louisiana.

Bonfils also has been on fishing teams at Parkview Baptist High School and the Junior Southwest Bassmasters. His preliminary plans are to fish this, his senior season, with the Central High School Bass Fishing Team.

Whether he has a partner or fishes by himself, he’s ready.

“I don’t have a partner just yet,” he said. “I feel confident I can do better this year even fishing alone.”

Bonfils, 17, just wants to continue to pursue his passion of figuring out and catching bass.

“I truly love it (bass fishing)” he said. “I just love fishing. You can give me a spool of line and a little hook and I’ll go bream fishing. My dad got me into it.”

Turning to bass

He notes his father, James Bonfils, loves all kinds of fishing except bass; nevertheless, he holds his own as a bass angler and a captain for the high school tournaments.

“My dad has surprised me. He’s caught real big bass when he fishes with me,” he said, explaining when he was very young his dad bought a saltwater boat to fish offshore out of Venice.

They targeted saltwater fish long before he turned his attention to bass.

During Grayson’s first year at Parkview Baptist School, a close friend, Noah Higgins, introduced him to high school bass fishing.

“I said (to himself after trying it), ‘I like it. It’s pretty cool. I’m going to do that,’ ” he said, adding he teamed up with Hunter Hamilton.

He’ll never forget the first high school bass tournament he fished. He’s put every effort into improving his game ever since that zero.

Grayson Bonfils

“I really took it seriously when I got with Gage and Mr. Will Major (Gage’s grandfather),” he said, noting he has learned so much the past year with Major. Major captained him and his grandson in four of the nine tournaments they fished while the elder Bonfils captained him five times in 2022-23.

“I’ve spent plenty of hours with Will Major. He’s a stubborn, stubborn old man. He knows it, too, and he’ll tell that himself,” Bonfils said with a chuckle about the veteran bass angler who has fished beaucoup bass tournaments.

Fully committed

His dad and mom, Paula, are impressed by the way he immersed himself into the sport.

“At first my parents were like, ‘OK, you can do it.’ Then they saw the effort I put into it”, he said, and they bought a 2019 V18 Nitro with a 150-horsepower Mercury.

He’s improved as a bass angler, he said, because he soaked it all in.

“Oh, I’ve spent many days with people way better than me and learned,” he said.

Grayson’s favorite body of water to fish in October is the Atchafalaya Basin. He’ll tie on his favorite swim jig and buzz bait, put in at Belle River Landing and run to Grand Lake.

“I’ll probably have to say the Spillway,” he said. “I have done my best notoriously in the Spillway than any other place. I look for clean, moving water and you’ve got to fish against the current every time. That’s what I do. That’s what I look for all around Grand Lake.”

About Don Shoopman 541 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.

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