PARIS, Tenn. — Keying on the coolest water they could find made winners of Grayson Morris and Tucker Smith of Alabama during the Bassmaster High School Series National Championship at Paris Landing State Park. The final weigh-in was held in downtown Paris on Saturday afternoon. Daily weigh-ins during the tournament were held at Paris Landing.
The high school competitors were awarded $22,000 in scholarship funds from B.A.S.S. and its sponsors. Bethel University presented $96,000 in scholarship money to the top two teams if they choose to attend the school in McKenzie, Tenn. Morris and Smith each earned $2,000 in scholarship money from B.A.S.S. and sponsors and $28,000 scholarships for four years from Bethel University.
The tournament included 670 anglers on 337 high school teams from across the nation and three countries.
The winners—who attend Briarwood Christian School–caught an 18-pound, 9-ounce limit of five bass in today’s final round to clinch the championship with a three-day total of 50 pounds, 2 ounces.
The Alabama anglers were fishing shallow all three days in the back of a major creek and keyed on a spot they thought was a spring or cold-water run-in because it featured bubbling water and water temperatures about 10 degrees less than the surrounding water. “The water dropped about a foot last night, which was really shocking to us,” said the 17-year-old Morris.
They began each morning by catching a few keeper bass in lily pads with a watermelon Stanley Ribbit toad, but when the sun got higher, they targeted shady banks with brush. Morris flipped a green pumpkin 1/2-ounce jig tipped with a black-and-blue Strike King Rage Menace spilt-tail grub inside the bushes while Smith, a 16-year-old junior, worked the outside of the bushes with a white Z-Man ChatterBait.
“Each day we had different bites; some were where it was shady up under a tree, and some were on the outside of the shade,” Morris said.
“We knew there was brush under some of the trees we were fishing, so we skipped our baits up under the trees. If we felt brush, we would drag it through the brush all the way out,” Morris said. “If not we would hop it a few times and pull it out.”
They missed some bass early today on the buzz frog and before moving to their cold-water spot, which Smith said was about the size of a tire. “Those fish were just stacked in there,” Smith said. “Every 20 minutes, we would come back through and there would be another 3-plus-pounder on it.”
On their first stop at the spring, the Alabama anglers caught a 3 1/2- and 4 1/2-pounder. They returned later to complete their limit and clinch the championship.
“This win means everything because fishing is all I do,” Smith said. “We don’t do any sports any more. We are all just fishermen.”
“We worked hard to get here,” Morris added. “The win is a big confidence booster, but it is also a humbling experience because we got to see all these other great anglers here representing their schools and states.”
Photo by Garry Mason.