The first annual Texas High School Bass Championship was held June 4th and 5th on Lake Belton. This two day cumulative weight event marked the first of its kind, and 13 teams from around the state came out to compete for the title, trophy, college tuition money and other prizes!
The event was the brainchild of accomplished angler and Lake Fork guide Justin Rackley. He became a National Collegiate Champion in 2007 for Texas A&M and earned his degree in Fisheries Ecology in 2008.
Now a professional angler in the PAA, he is working diligently to inspire young anglers. While educating them on the importance of our nation’s fisheries, Justin strives to introduce our youth to competitive angling at an early age.
“I would have absolutely loved to have been able to fish in a high school bass fishing tournament when I was in high school. I got to experience the action of collegiate angling and have watched the sport grow exponentially. High school is the next step! I know there are others like me that are hooked on fishing in their teenage years. The THSBFC is the competitive opportunity that I wish I had at that time.”
Belton can be a good largemouth bass lake at certain times of the year and is also known for having one of Texas’ best populations of smallmouth bass. But during this abnormally tough weekend, the competitors had to show maturity and discipline beyond their years as the fishing conditions were brutal and the heat was insufferable. Many high level tournament anglers had recently reported difficulty getting bites, much less putting any real pattern together!
But A&M Consolidated seniors Alexander Newell and Shelby Robinson gritted it out and took home the trophy. The duo caught five keeper fish over the two days for a total weight of 9.05 lbs. For their efforts they took home $1,000 for tuition, two Dobyns rods gift certificates and the Champions trophy to show off for years to come! We asked Alexander about their tournament.
“We mainly threw jigs and Pop R’s pretty deep. The bite was slow, but better than it had been. We live pretty far, so we weren’t really sure what to do since we had only been on the lake once. When we came here last week to prefish, that was our first time on the lake and we didn’t even catch a fish!”
Both students just graduated from A&M Consolidated and said the money will really help as they prepare to start college in the fall. Alexander plans on attending A&M Corpus Christi and Shelby will be close by at A&M Kingsville.
We expect these guys will continue team tournament competition and hope to hear more from them as they move on in their fishing careers. Congrats again Alexander and Shelby!
Second place went to Kassidy Pitcox and Storey Tatsch from Llano High School.
A picture of consistency, which is critical in multi-day events, they weighed in two fish each day for a total of six pounds even. Storey shared more with us.
“We started out in the mornings with some top water baits and moved out deeper with plastics as the day went on and heated up; that pattern that held up for us both days. We knew as tough as it was if we could just bring in a couple each day, we’d have a chance.”
Well done Kassidy and Storey!
Third place was the Austin area team of TTZ team member Jake Read and Evan Coleman with four fish totaling 5.24 lbs. This team had the distinction of being the youngest to fish the tournament! At 13 years of age, both anglers just finished the eighth grade and will be entering Rouse High School in the fall. After no keepers on day one, they rallied in the heat to catch the biggest single bag of the tourney to launch them into third. Jake told us how it went down.
“We struggled on day one. We threw everything at all depths…Carolina rigs, Texas rigs, Senkos and Flukes; we only caught one six incher and lost another possible keeper fish in the trees. We had several bites, but they were weird and just didn’t hold on.”
After an exhausting day on the water, the youngest team in the competition had the discipline to know it was still anybody’s ball game. With one more day of Texas’ heat ahead of them, they knew to keep their heads down, fish hard and keep their eyes on the prize. We asked Jake what was different on day two.
“On the second day we fished some different water. We threw a Yamamoto Senko mostly, and had eight fish with only one keeper in the first hour. But we knew we were doing the right thing, and that gave us confidence to slow down. Through the day, we were able to fish near deeper water with a wacky Senko to put three more keepers in the boat. We were real happy with third, especially after our rough start!”
Congratulations to Jake and Evan for embodying the phrase ‘Never Give Up!’
Local guys Dustin “Bo” Johnson and Dylan Pelt from Belton High School were able to impressively secure fourth place with only one fish! The 4.74 pound Belton behemoth won the team Big Bass honors and catapulted them into a top five overall finish for two days.
“I caught her on a Texas rigged wacky worm in deep water. We guess she was in about 25 feet, that had been a productive depth for us. We were beginning to wonder if we were doing the right thing, but when she bit we felt a lot better about it! She put up a pretty good fight but we were able to get her in the boat,” said Bo.
Congrats guys! As they say…if you’re only gonna get one in the boat, make it count!
Vandergrift students Kyle Daugherty and Brooks Lukas also rebounded after a tough first day and brought three keepers to the scales on day 2; their 3.63 pounds was good enough for fifth place.
Brock, Splendora and another A&M Consolidated team also managed to bring fish back to the scales; and when the bite is this tough, it’s a victory in itself to get on the scoreboard.
Also worth mentioning were competitors Brennon Fertig and Austin Thomas. Though they didn’t have much luck with the fickle Belton bass, they did impress us in another way. They were distinguished as being the team that travelled the furthest to compete. Coming from Medina High School, these guys travelled over 200 miles one way. Sounds like a couple of hard core tourney anglers in the making for sure!
TTZ would like to commend all the young men and women for participating in the first annual Texas High School Bass Fishing Championship.
When it comes to talented and marketable future ambassadors of our sport our state is in good hands! We’ll be following their careers with great interest, and hope to see some of the younger guns out next year.
We’d also like to say a special thanks to Justin Rackley and his father Calvin for their efforts and genuine interest in our sport and Texas’ youth. We hope to grow with this event in the future and anticipate bass fishing will become a recognized athletic program in Texas high schools soon. With events like this, and the help of influential folks like the Rackleys and Rick Smith at Marine Outlet, it will be a reality sooner than later!
If you know a high school student who would be interested in fishing the event next year, please stay tuned to TTZ for details or contact Justin at the event’s site here.