Early on Sept. 18, 41 two-person teams from across Central Texas set out on Belton Lake by boat, with each pair of youths accompanied by an adult boat captain.
These young people went toe-to-toe competing in the Central Texas High School Tournament Trail’s first qualifying bass fishing event of the 2016-17 season.
Temperatures that day would reach into the upper 90’s, with water temperatures in the mid-80’s. Add to that clear skies and calm winds, and this day turned out to be a challenging one for anglers of any caliber.
The CTHSTT middle school and high school anglers rose to the occasion, however. When the scales opened up at weigh-in time, it was time to see which team had put together the winning pattern.
Team after team came to the scales, and when the last team had weighed their catch and the scales closed, the results were tallied and announced.
The team of Kyle Learned, of Team Tightlines, and Joshua Gonzales, of the Ellison High School Fishing Team, took the win by catching four fish totaling 15 pounds.
Anchoring their haul was a 6.27-pound largemouth caught by Gonzales.
Learned and Gonzales had never fished together as a team before. In fact, it was due to Learned’s partner’s illness and Gonzalez’s partner no-showing that the two were paired up.
Learned shared with me that the two hit it off and figured things out late in the tournament when they observed bass hunkered down in the midst of submerged brush, thus leading them to fish in brush they encountered instead of around the edges of it.
“We caught six or seven dinks [fish too small to weigh in] and the four keepers. Joshua’s big fish came on a Sissy Rig, and I caught most of my keepers on a shaky-head rig,” said Learned.
Learned, a senior at Harker Heights High School, plans to attend a technical college after graduation and pursue a degree in mechanical engineering or marine technology. Learned was quick to express his thanks to his father, Thomas Learned, for captaining the team’s boat, and to Tightlines Premium Fishing Tackle of Killeen for sponsoring him.
Learned spoke passionately about the youth of Team Tightlines being focused on drawing their peers off the couch, out of the house, away from the video game screens, and into the outdoors by sharing their knowledge of the sport of fishing.
Taking second with an equally impressive bag of fish was the team of Braedon Metzqar and Brooks Barnett of the Midway High School Fishing Team with a five-fish limit totaling 13.62 pounds.
Nipping at their heels was a team from Troy ISD. Landen Bennett and Bryant Mitchell brought in a five-fish limit totaling 13.47 pounds, which was good for third place.
Taking fourth place was the team of Cameron Clouse and Clayton Green, also of Team Tightlines, with a five-fish limit totaling 12.78 pounds.
Fifth-place honors went to the team of Case Markham and Logan Duncan fishing for the Brownwood Lions Fishing Team with a five-fish limit totaling 9.79 pounds.
A complete list of the results can be found on the organization’s website at www.cthstt.com.
Henry Niemiec, coordinator of the CTHSTT, thanked everyone that participated as anglers or captains, and all the family members and friends that came to cheer on their favorite team.
CTSHTT’s second qualifying tournament of the season will be on Lake Waco on Oct. 23. For details about the event, or about including your youth in this growing sport, contact Niemiec, the lab aide at the Ellison High School Eagles’ Nest learning lab, at 254-368-0294.