BY DAVE LINK
Summertime is here, and it’s the peak of postseason for high school bass fishing.
At least four teams in the 5Star Preps coverage area are competing this week in the Major League Fishing (MLF) High School National Championships on Pickwick Lake in Florence, Ala.
They’re among about 100 angling duos who qualified with top-five finishes in MFL Opens or with top two- or three-finishes in MFL State Championship events.
Capping off the season will be the Bassmaster High School National Championships taking place Aug. 11-14 on Lake Hartwell in Anderson, S.C., with the field capped at about 200 boats.
And next week (June 27-30), professional angler Jacob Wheeler of Harrison, Tenn., will play host to the Magellan Outdoors High School Bass Shootout on Watts Bar Lake with several local anglers competing.
Here’s a look at the three events, plus a list of the teams from the 5Star Preps coverage area in the Bassmaster Nationals in August:
MLF ON PICKWICK
Monday and Tuesday (June 20 and 21) were practice days for the MLF Nationals on Pickwick Lake with the first two rounds of the tournament Wednesday and Thursday. The top 10 teams will compete Friday for the championship.
Alcoa Fishing has two teams in the MFL Championship: freshman Joe Vaulton and sophomore Walker LaRue, and freshman Landon Myers and sophomore Hunter Olivet.
Freshman Austin Gredig and sophomore Hunter Stewart of William Blount Fishing are also in the MLF nationals field, along with a school-combo team of Blake Wheat (Rhea County) and Riley Faulkner (Campbell County).
LaRue and Vaulton spent Monday and Tuesday on Pickwick with their dads, J.J. and Barry, respectively, checking out the lake and doing some practicing.
They weren’t alone.
Also taking place this week on Pickwick is the MLF High School World Finals with more than 200 boats duos competing.
“They’re going to have to catch better than our practice is going,” boat captain J.J. LaRue said of Joe Vaulton and his son. “When you pack 400 boats on the lake, it changes things. It’s a busy lake anyway, and big. It’s very big.”
Olivet and Myers qualified with a third-place finish in the MLF Open on Chickamauga Lake, while Vaulton and LaRue made the field with by finishing second at the MLF Open on Guntersville Lake in Alabama.
“We don’t hear a lot about MLF around here just because there’s really no tournaments,” J.J. LaRue said. “Chickamauga was the closest one we’ve had in a while, and the Bassmaster events are just so much larger. Like the Smith Lake that Walker and Joe qualified through, they capped the field at 200, and there were 196 high school teams. You have an MLF event and they barely break 100 (boats), and Bassmaster has to cap it at 200.”
J.J. LaRue is the duo’s boat captain this week. Those duties fall on Barry Vaulton for the Bassmaster National Championship in August.
“I’m letting him do the Bassmasters,” LaRue said. “That way I can put all the pressure on him.”
BASSMASTER ON HARTWELL
There are numerous qualifiers from the 5Star Preps coverage area competing in the Bassmaster National Championships on Lake Hartwell in August.
Alcoa Fishing has three teams going: Vaulton and LaRue; freshman Jackie Hatfield and sophomore Graham Willis; and Myers and freshman Jacob Teffeteller.
“Our goal was just to get one to qualify and to have three teams to go is even better,” said J.J. LaRue. “It’s all freshmen and sophomores. We don’t have anybody above a sophomore.”
Sophomores Ty Trentham and Chase McCarter of the Sevier County Anglers also qualified for the August nationals.
“Ty and Chase made it last year and this year, as freshmen and sophomores,” LaRue said. “That’s a pretty big feat because a lot of successful seniors never make it.”
Several teams qualified for the Bassmaster nationals on more than one occasion this year. Vaulton and LaRue triple qualified.
Trentham and McCarter qualified with a 13th-place finish in the June 4 Tennessee Bass Nation (TBN) State Championship on Kentucky Lake at Paris Landing.
“We didn’t win a tournament this year but we fished better in each division,” said Doug Trentham, Ty’s father and the duo’s boat captain on Kentucky Lake. “We were very consistent throughout the year, and we fished all the divisions except the West. We like to travel to get the kids’ versatility.”
Banks Shaw and B.J. Collins won the State Championship on June 4 and are multiple-time qualifiers for the Bassmaster Championships.
Other top area finishers in the State Championships on Kentucky Lake were Riley Faulkner and Blake Roberts of Campbell County (fourth); Larry Brown and Dallas Brewster of Loudon; Hatfield and Willis of Alcoa (10th); Kobi May and Alex Gore of Jefferson County (16th); Logan Withrow and Brayden Crumley of Chilhowee; Jacob Berryhill and Gage Ricker of Cherokee Chiefs (21st) and Jackson Barger and Jackson Farmer of Seymour (23rd).
Wheeler, one of the top pros on the MLF Tour, will host the Magellan Outdoors High School Bass Shootout from June 27-30 on Watts Bar Lake.
June 27 is the practice day and mandatory dinner for all anglers and boat captains. The next day, anglers take off from the Spring City boat ramp competing with the traditional five-fish format with weigh-ins starting at 3:30.
On June 29, the top six teams from Day 1 will compete under MLF rules with boats being captained by Bass Pro Tour anglers using their boats.
The winning team and boat captain will spend June 30 fishing with Wheeler, and its hotel room will be paid for on June 29 and 30.
“It’s going to be a great experience,” said Doug Trentham, whose son Ty and Chase McCarter will take part. “We’re just hoping to make the top six.”
LaRue and Vaulton are also taking part in Wheeler’s event.
“We’re coming home from here (in Alabama) and stopping by there to fish in it,” J.J. LaRue said.
Here’s a list of teams from 5Star Preps coverage area competing in the Bassmaster National Championships:
B.J. Collins and Banks Shaw, Sale Creek
Ben Hester and Mason Caldwell, Rhea County
Joe Vaulton and Walker LaRue, Alcoa
Carter Nutt and Dylan Nutt, Sale Creek
Parker Batts and Brody Jones, Jefferson County
Jackie Hatfield and Graham Willis, Alcoa
Chase McCarter and Ty Trentham, Sevier County
Logan Withrow and Brayden Crumley, Chilhowee
Logan Evans and Breantlea Rodgers, Soddy-Daisy
Kobi May and Alex Gore, Jefferson County
Jake Carney and Knox Whalen, Soddy-Daisy
Conner Mason and Archer Reese, Meigs County
Joseph Mashburn and Kobe Walden, Clinton
Jaden Purkey and Tanner Herndon, Jefferson County
Trey Woliver and Hayden Poe, Heritage
Andon Goins and Danny Moon, Rhea County
Riley Faulkner and Blake Roberts, Campbell County
Alex Douglas and Will Douglas, Cumberland Gap
Hayden Burnett and Will Bacon, Roane County
Bryson Dotson and Holden Pistello, Campbell County
Landon Myers and Jacob Teffeteller, Alcoa