Going into the final tournament of the season, two boats are separated by only two points.
Next week’s tournament, should it end the same as this past weekend’s, the two teams will go away in a deadlock tie for first place.
“It’s very tight,” head coach Will VanEtten said. “I like watching the guys, week in and week out, just chomping at the bit to make sure that they can finish one place higher to get those extra points. They really want to get a hold of those Dixie Custom rods.”
This past weekend during an intrasquad tournament, Jordan Bruce and Nick Wells had a chance to put the Angler of the Year trophy in their hands, along with a year’s worth of bragging rights.
However, they couldn’t net the opportunity.
“When I hooked him, we got the net ready,” Bruce said. “I was fighting him in, and we got him right to the boat. He got halfway into the net, and he jumped out, and the hook came out. He was gone.”
The fish, which was estimated to be around six pounds, flopped the net in the final minutes of the competition.
The team knew it was a missed opportunity.
“We knew the fish would help us,” Wells said. “When he lost it, we knew it would cost us. We knew we needed one more big fish to beat them, because we’d seen them catch a big fish that morning. We knew they had a big one, and when we lost that one, we knew it was over.”
The big fish would have been a five-pound difference in their total weight.
Instead, Wells and Bruce finished in third place, catching 8.7 pounds.
Brandon VanEtten and Jake Clowers took second place honors with 9.7.
Zach Paul and Caleb Dople, who trail Wells and Bruce by two points, took first with a 14.25-pound limit.
Paul took home the big-fish honors, as he caught a largemouth that weighed in at 5.1 pounds.
“Whenever I caught it, I knew it was going to help us,” Paul said. “I figured it’d be big fish, because it was about as big as the big fish last week. I just knew it would help.”
The rivalry’s shaping up to be a big one, as the two teams look to face off this weekend.
The boats will launch from Hatmaker Point on Saturday morning at safelight.
“Our team’s friends with them, and we talk to them, but it’s pretty close,” Paul said. “We’re really competitive. Two points behind, we know we have to finish about three places ahead of them to get it. I think that’s what we’ve got to do.”
“It’s going to be close,” Dople continued. “Nick and Jordan are just as good as we are. We’ve got to beat them, and they’ve got to beat us.”
However, for Wells, it’s going to come down to a final count. His team is only looking for one thing.
“It’s a big rivalry,” Wells said. “We’re really out for bragging rights over the rods. We’re both wanting to catch fish and fish hard.”
The week before, the team capitalized on Clinton again.
Campbell County caught 33.85 pounds in their top four boats, as Clinton’s top four only brought in 19.7 pounds.
Wells and Bruce took top honors with 13.15, as Dople and Paul took third behind a Clinton boat, as they caught 8.05.
The big fish went to Chris Shouse, who’s fish weighed 4.9 pounds.
As the season is winding down, the competition isn’t going just to the fishermen.
“You think it’s competitive among these boys, but what I find hilarious is how competitive it’s getting among the parents,” VanEtten said. “They’re trying to figure out where they can take them and help them out as best they can. All parties involved with it, especially with these two boats that are fighting for it here at the end, the parents, kids and all of them are chomping at the bit.”