by DAVE LINK
Bass anglers in the 5Star Preps coverage area recently completed the 2021-22 season, and two duos landed monster finishes.
Ty Trentham and Chase McCarter of Sevier County High School Fishing were fourth among 314 boats in the August 11-13 Bassmaster High School National Championship on Lake Hartwell in Anderson, South Carolina.
A couple weeks earlier, Owen Ray and Camdyn Cranfill of the Rhea County Eagle Anglers placed second among 65 boats in the July 29-30 Bassmaster Junior National Championship on Carroll County 1,000 Acre Lake in Huntington, Tennessee.
How’d they pull it off?
Here’s how (and other details).
TY AND CHASE AT HARTWELL
McCarter and Trentham, who just started their junior years at Sevier County, spent a couple of weekends in June practicing on Lake Hartwell, and they left feeling confident about their chances in the Nationals.
That changed when they arrived at actual practice days (Aug. 8-10) about two months after their previous visits.
Water levels on the lake had dropped by “a foot or two, maybe even three feet,” Trentham said.
“After coming down before the (TSSAA) dead period,” he said, “we were really, really catching ‘em real good. We expected to do well, but the water coming down, that really took away all of our spots. Even on the first day, we had about a tenth of the places we could go to before the dead period.”
McCarter said the water level threw all the boats a curve.
“We had a lot of good places found (during the June practices),” said McCarter, whose father Chad was their boat captain. “We had really high expectations. When we got out there, it just completely changed. All our really good places were just impossible to fish. We kind of scrambled there for a little while. We just had to explore and find some new places and we ran upon a few different places, but we just found a handful of them. It was a major change for everybody.”
They made the right adjustments for the event, in which the top 12 boats after the first two days competed on Championship Saturday.
Trentham and McCarter were in first place after the first day with the five-bass limit weighing 17 pounds, 15 ounces.
They dropped to fifth the second day with five bass weighing 8-11, but still qualified for Championship Saturday.
“That was really, really what we wanted to do,” Trentham said.
McCarter agreed: “We were really fortunate and blessed to make it to the top 12. That was definitely a major goal.”
On Saturday, they landed five bass weighing 10 pounds, 15 ounces for a three-day total of 37 pounds, 9 ounces.
Reece Keeney and Bryce Moder of Northeast Wisconsin Bass Fishing won with a three-day total of 43 pounds, 1 ounce.
The next two boats were from Alabama, followed by three from Tennessee.
Trailing Trentham-McCarter were fifth-place Evan Wood and Spencer Lovett of Mount Pleasant Fishing (37 pounds, 2 ounces) followed by sixth-place Nathan Reynolds and Luke Malik of Backwoods Bassin’ (37 pounds, 1 ounce).
Of the 15 bass Trentham and McCarter kept, 14 were largemouth and one was a spotted bass. Most were caught on buzz baits and imitation frogs.
Their first day was productive considering the change in water levels. The near 18-pound bag was the biggest of the tournament.
“We were just trying to focus on flowing water,” McCarter said, “either in a creek or a river, and trying to find really good shady banks and stuff to fish. That’s’ where we were getting our bites, mostly.
“We weren’t getting a lot of bites but it seemed like they were either itty-bitty or really good size, 3 or 4 pounds, so we just had to work hard all day and keep fishing those kinds of spots and keep searching for them. We just managed to catch a limit every day, which was great, but the first day we hit our best spot and caught three really nice fish that put us in first place.”
Day 2 was difficult.
“Even the second day of the tournament, they were still dropping the water,” Trentham said, “and they dropped it down two or three inches and that was just enough to where we couldn’t get to our spots, and that really hurt us bad. That was our big plan, to go into that one spot, and we couldn’t get in there because of that big sand bar. We made it there the first day.”
Even the places they got to on Day 2, the bass were gone or not biting.
“Our spots, we kind of fished them out,” McCarter said, “and we took those big fish out of there and they didn’t reload as we’d hoped they would, but we did manage to find some bigger fish the third day.
“We lost one in the morning and we caught a big one later in the day. We got onto that and that really helped us the third day, but the second day, we never could get a big bite.”
McCarter caught the biggest bass Saturday, a 4-plus pounder, on a topwater lure.
“I stuck with buzz baits and the frog and jig,” McCarter said. “Most of our damage came on topwater. Those fish were shallow and it’s just a reaction to them, it’s just right in their face. A topwater in general just has so much drawing power, those big fish would come out there and take it.”
There was plenty at stake for the top finishers in terms of prize money and college scholarship opportunities.
McCarter and Trentham each got offers from Bethel University and Webber University.
“That was really a confidence booster for me and Ty, to have colleges want us to fish for ’em,” McCarter said. “That’s a lot of confidence for us because it’s a milestone for us. We haven’t had colleges offer us anything yet. We were really shocked. I didn’t know that was going to happen.”
Now, it’s on to next season.
McCarter and Trentham begin the 2022-23 season – along with most other returning anglers – on Sept. 10 in a Tennessee Bass Nation State Open event on Watts Bar.
The Sevier County anglers won’t forget their sophomore seasons.
“This was an awesome year,” McCarter said. “We’ve done well everywhere we’ve went, just being consistent. We’ve had a few tournaments that weren’t the greatest, but we’ve tried our best just to weigh in five fish every tournament (day) and just stay up there in the points, and that’s how we qualified for the nationals.”
Other area anglers in the Bassmaster Nationals:
Walker LaRue and Joe Vaulton of Alcoa Fishing were 15th (24 pounds, 10 ounces for two days); Hayden Barnett and Will Bacon of Roane County were 29th (21 pounds, 7 ounces); Logan Withrow and Braden Crumley of Chilhowie Bassmasters were 46th (19 pounds, 9 ounces).
Also for Alcoa Fishing, Jackie Hatfield and Graham Willis were 163rd and Landon Myers and Jacob Teffeteller were 174th.
RAY-CRANFILL AT CARROLL CO.
Ray and Cranfill put a wrap on their middle school days at Carroll County 1,000 Acre Lake.
Ray went to Spring City Middle School and Cranfill went to Rhea Middle.
They’re now freshmen at Rhea County High School, and on Monday night, were at a meeting of the Rhea County Anglers. They’ll fish together this season.
“I feel great,” Cranfill said. “I think the season’s going to go pretty good. This year we’re really not worried about doing good in the points or making it to nationals. We’re just kind of trying to put our name out there now.”
They’ll start the season at the same event as McCarter and Trentham – Sept. 10 on Watts Bar.
Ray said their experience at Carroll County was memorable.
“I’m not going to complain,” Ray said. “You’ve got to think we’re going against the best of the best in the nation, and to be able to say I’m second in the nation is a very big accomplishment.”
Both had fished the Carroll County lake a couple of years ago at a tournament, although they were fishing with different partners.
The lake fits its name.
“It’s a 1,000-acre lake,” Ray said. “It’s more or less just a pond. We had three days of official practice, but we did practice before the lake went off limits. It’s not real big, and there’s a power line that runs on one end of the lake, and behind it, there’s 400 acres that are off limits.”
It made for crowded conditions for the Bassmaster event.
“I really didn’t care for it,” Cranfill said, “being so small with so many boats on it, being packed, and the bite was a whole lot tougher.”
They made the most of it anyway.
With Camdyn’s dad Hagen as boat captain, the Rhea County anglers were in third place after the first day, getting the five-bass limit weighing 10 pounds, 3 ounces on mostly topwater lures.
They landed only three keepers on Day 2 weighing 7 pounds even.
“The pressure on the lake had a lot to do with it (the slow bite) and the weather changed on us,” Ray said. “The first day, it was storming first thing and we were in a delay until 7:30 or 8. We didn’t get an early start. The second day what messed us up was it got real clear.”
The winners were Mark Cerja Jr. and Gus Richardson of Lone Star Bassmasters in Texas. They got five keepers each day, finishing with 18 pounds, 5 ounces.
Also from the Rhea County Eagle Anglers, Turner Tharpe and Blake James finished 26th at the Junior Nationals with eight bass weighing 9 pounds, 8 ounces.