Last Sunday, the capping event of the Central Texas High School Tournament Trail took place on Lake Belton. After fishing multiple events over the course of this school year, 22 qualifying two-person teams took to the water to compete for the grand prize of $2,500 in scholarship money and other prizes.
These 44 students were safely escorted to fishing areas of their choosing by the 22 adult boat captains who operated the floating platforms from which the youth fished.
The morning was calm and cool, with Belton Lake around 8 feet high, thanks to recent abundant rains. The lake level was also falling slowly as the Corps of Engineers began releasing accumulated flood water in a controlled fashion.
Each two-person team sought to catch and bring back to the weigh-in site the heaviest five-fish limit consisting of any combination of black bass, which includes largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and spotted bass.
The fact that the weigh-in took over half an hour was testament to the teams’ success. Every one of the 22 teams weighed in fish. A total of 79 fish were brought to the scales. That figure does not include those that were too small to keep or that were culled and replaced with larger fish.
First place, and the title of 2015-2016 CTHSTT Champions, went to the team of Justin Tatum, of Salado High School, and Hunter Garrett, of Belton High School, fishing for the Cen-Tex Bass Club, with a total weight of 17.18 pounds. Tatum’s 6.64-pound largemouth anchored their five-fish limit and weighed in as the largest fish captured during this event. For their efforts, each received a trophy and split $2,500 in scholarship money.
Second place went to the team of Cody Barchenger and Ethan Ochea, of Thrall High School, with a total weight of 12.09 pounds. For their efforts, each received a trophy and split $1,500 in scholarship money.
Third place went to the team of Drew Hargrove and Tristen Fletcher, of Moody High School, with a total weight of 10.53 pounds. For their efforts, each received a trophy and shared $1,000 in scholarship money.
Fourth place went to the team of Mac Mullings and Colton Zahn, of Temple High School, fishing for Team Tightlines. They caught a total weight of 9.78 pounds. For their efforts, each received a cap from Skeeter Boats, a Rod Glove and a $50 sporting goods gift certificate.
The Team of the Year award went to Alex Chambers and Preston Pittman, of Team Tightlines, for their efforts in competing in all five qualifying events, and accumulating 1,150 points to lead the field. Each was awarded with a medallion, a cap, and a high-end Enigma fishing rod.
Ellison High School’s “Eagle’s Nest Lab” aide and Killeen resident Henry Niemiec has been the driving force behind the CTHSTT since its inception. Niemiec first got hooked on fishing while on active duty with the Army while stationed at Fort Polk, La. In 1992 he was invited by a friend to fish in a large tournament sponsored by McDonald’s, and the idea of winning money by catching fish really appealed to him. That interest evolved into a desire to introduce others to this wholesome pursuit.
Those interested in contacting Niemiec to learn about how to include students in the CTHSTT for the 2016-2017 season may reach him at Ellison High School at 254-368-0294 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.