BY DAVE LINK
Fishing was tough in the inaugural Smokey Invitational High School Tournament on July 9, but recent Heritage graduates Hayden Poe and Trey Woliver made the most of it.
They won the event on Watts Bar Lake, hosted by Bass Fishing at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.
“It was pretty awesome to win it, being the inaugural one, that’s for sure,” Poe said.
Poe and Woliver reeled in the three-bass limit weighing 11.17 pounds, edging second-place Jackie Hatfield and Graham Willis of the Alcoa Fishing Team, whose three-bass limit weighed 8.54 pounds.
“It was awesome,” Woliver said. “We were really looking forward to this tournament, ever since they announced it, and I know several other anglers were, too.”
There were 28 teams from East Tennessee and the Nashville area competing in the event.
One of the perks for the top-two teams: They get to compete with members of the Bass Fishing at UT-Knoxville team in a fish-off later in the fall.
The format for the fish-off will be unique.
Each high school team will split up its two members, and each will fish with a UT angler in a four-boat competition.
“It will be a cool experience,” Woliver said, “to be able to fish with them and kind of get an insight on how things work on the collegiate level and get to learn from them.”
It will be a fishing first for Poe, being with a college angler.
“It’ll definitely be a learning experience,” Poe said.
“I’ve never been with more than just my partner, so seeing how they do things and how they like to fish will definitely be pretty cool and a good learning experience.”
HOW THEY WON
Starting from Tom Fuller Park on Watts Bar, teams in the Smokey Invitational took off on an overcast morning before skies began clearing as noon approached, making for hot conditions.
Adam Woliver, Trey’s dad and coach of Heritage Fishing, served as boat captain for Poe and Trey Woliver.
“This was actually the first tournament we didn’t have a strong game plan for or pre-fish,” Trey Woliver said. “We’d been looking at some maps and decided we were going to commit to going to Whites Creek, which is a fairly big creek on the lake. In the morning, with it overcast, we went shallow and threw some spooks and topwater and tried to get some bites, but that didn’t turn out too well, so we moved out to mouth of Whites Creek to a marina.”
Within the first 10 minutes after moving to the marina, Woliver hooked a 4.35-pound largemouth on a spoon, fought it, and Poe netted it.
It was their biggest bass of the day.
“They like shade, so they like to get up underneath (marinas),” Poe said. “We found that (marina) that was covered and kind of deep. We knew they’d be deep. We just got (Woliver’s) live scope working on his boat, and we’re getting ready to fish in the National Championship on Lake Hartwell, and it’s going to be another one of those tournaments where they’re going to be deep.
“So we were really messing around with that thing, trying to play with it and get used to using it, and we ended up catching three good ones like that.”
Once they moved to the marina, they stayed there until weigh-in at 1 p.m.
They only caught about five or six bass – all on spoons — and only three keepers.
“Well,” Poe said, laughing, “I didn’t catch as many as (Woliver) did, but the ones I caught, I caught ’em on a spoon as well, so I guess a spoon was what was working well for us.”
A tough bite, but a good day.
“It was really awesome,” Woliver said. “Going into that tournament, we didn’t expect anything like the outcome. We were just planning on going out and having fun and we did just that. Once we had our third fish, I was feeling pretty confident. But you always have to watch out for all those other anglers because they can catch really big bags. We fish against great competition and they keep you on your toes.”
Finishing third were Evan Marks and Ezra Marks of Rockwood, ahead of fourth-place Kobi May and Cayden Haney of Jefferson County, Jake Lovingood (Alcoa) and Harlyn Nelson (William Blount) in fifth, and Walker LaRue and Joe Vaulton of Alcoa in sixth.
Woliver and Poe’s next event will be the 2022 Bassmaster High School National Championship from August 11-13 on Lake Hartwell near Anderson, South Carolina.
It will be a bittersweet few days for the Heritage anglers.
Poe and Woliver have been friends since the second grade and started fishing together as a team during Heritage Fishing’s infant stages.
“Hayden and I have been partners all four years that we’ve fished (in high school),” Woliver said, “so it will be sad knowing that the National Championship will be our last tournament together. God has blessed us with countless memories on the water these past few years, and we’re looking forward to getting out there one more time and having fun.”
Poe expects an emotional finish.
“I haven’t really thought about it much, but it will definitely be hard,” he said. “Four years, coming down to the last one, it’s going to be tough.”