Teens fish for cash, pride

Published 12:09 am Sunday, October 30, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Fifteen-year-old Andy Smith fishes in the Second Annual High School Pro/Am Bass Classic hosted by the LaPigstickers Federation Bass Club Saturday on Old River Vidalia. Smith represented Vidalia High School in the competition.

Vidalia — Twenty-one young anglers hit the waters of Old River Vidalia and Deer Park Saturday to fish for school pride and a little bit of cash in the Second Annual High School Pro/Am Bass Classic.

Monterey High, Vidalia High, Ferriday High, Natchez High, Trinity Episcopal, Adams County Christian and Cathedral School each had three students compete in the tournament.

The tournament was hosted by the LaPigstickers Federation Bass Club, and club member John Bruce said this year’s event topped the inaugural event last year.

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“We beat last year by a long shot,” he said. “We got way more than we expected, and each year we expect it to grow.

“Last year we wanted to do something with the youth in the community to get them out from in front of the computers and Facebook, and this (tournament) is what we came up with.”

This year’s overall winner took home a $300 prize, and that honor went to Ferriday’s Charles Chandler.

Chandler, who said it was his first-ever fishing tournament, caught three fish that weighed in at 9.99 pounds. Chandler said he was excited about pulling in his big fish.

“It feels great,” he said. “This is one of the best feelings I’ve ever had. I felt like a pro bass fisherman (at the weigh in).

“It was the first time for me catching a fish over 3 pounds. I just wanted to put my hand in its mouth and hold it up.”

Each participant in the tournament earned a spot in the contest by submitting an essay on why they should be chosen to fish in the tournament. Chandler said his essay was about one of his fishing goals.

“Basically I said my dream is to catch a 5-pound bass. I want to catch big bass,” he said.

None of Chandler’s fish weighed over 5 pounds this year, and he said he would keep going after his dream.

Chandler is a senior for the Ferriday football team, and he said the non-stop action of a football game is different from a fishing competition.

“In a football game, there is a lot of adrenaline, and it stays up,” he said. “Fishing it’s only up when you are catching fish.”

Chandler said he plans to reinvest his $300 into buying fishing equipment.

Although Chandler finished first overall in the tournament, the second and third place finishers were both from Natchez High School. Those top scores led the Bulldogs to their second straight tournament win.

“This makes Natchez High stand out over all the schools,” third-place finisher Denzell Anderson said. “It feels marvelous.”

Keneatra Johnson led Natchez High Saturday. She finished second overall by catching three fish at 8.83 pounds.

The third member of the Natchez team was Lekeshia Harris, who said that the team felt pressure as the defending champions, but she was just glad to get the opportunity to participate.

“Fishing is really fun, and it’s something kids can do on the weekends,” she said.

Ferriday finished second overall in the team competition, and Vidalia finished third.

Senior Corey Williams was the top finisher for the Vikings. He caught three fish at 8.28 pounds.

“This was a fun learning experience,” Williams said. “I’ve fished a couple (tournaments) before with Dixie Bass Club, but this one is more prestigious. It’s nice to have someone to compete with as a team.”

Cathedral sophomore Josh Wilkerson represented the Green Wave in the tournament along with junior Lee Kaiser and sophomore B.J. White.

Wilkerson said his essay was about a fishing trip he took with his father Reagan as a young boy, and he was glad to get the opportunity to fish in the high school tournament.

“It was fun fishing for my school, and trying to support Cathedral,” he said. “I wish they did this more often.”

Trinity’s Michael Stricklin was one of the more seasoned high school anglers in the tournament. He said he had participated in approximately a dozen tournaments already.

“My essay was about my dream to become a pro,” he said. “I watch all the shows and do fishing tournaments.”

Stricklin said he was paired with his grandfather David Cooper in the tournament Saturday.

ACCS senior Jake Brumfield said he also enjoyed his first fishing tournament because the competitive nature of the competition kept him focused the entire morning.

“You don’t lose interest as much in tournaments, and you do when you are just out fishing,” he said. “This was a once in a lifetime chance.”

Trever Millican, Chris Hughes and Steven Simpson represented the team from Monterey that finished in fourth place. Hughes said he was excited about representing his school, and he wants to try to do more tournaments in the future.

A tournament angler from the Miss-Lou accompanied each high school angler. Many of the high school participants said they learned valuable tips from their professional partners.

The high school anglers had a three fish limit for their individual scores. Those scores were added to the professionals’ top two scores to go toward the school totals.

Chandler and his partner, Ronnie Gillespie, had the highest score with five fish that weighed-in at 17.5 pounds.