Bassmasters: Wilson, St. John qualify for nationals

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By Dwane Wilder

DANDRIDGE—Thanks to a couple of their Campbell County High School teammates, rising sophomores Craig Wilson and Trevor St. John will have a chance to compete in the Bassmaster High School Classic next February in South Carolina.

After a great start last Friday in the two-day Bassmaster High School Open on Douglas Lake, Wilson and St. John finished 29th overall and 20 spots from qualifying for the national tournament.

That’s where recent CCHS graduates Jake Clowers and Tyler Chumley come in. Since both will be fishing this fall for Bryan College, their nationals berth — for placing ninth in the open tournament with 22 pounds and 9 ounces — was automatically awarded to Wilson and St. John.

Campbell County might’ve put two teams in the national tournament had Wilson and St. John been able to duplicate their success on the opening day of the open.

Shortly after noon, Wilson hauled in a largemouth bass weighing 6 pounds and 2 ounces. The lunker was the largest of the tournament and earned Wilson a $1,250 scholarship to the college of his choice. Clinton’s team of Jake Lee and Jacob Mashburn had the second biggest bass with a specimen on Saturday weighing 5 pounds and 12 ounces. Lee and Mashburn captured the open championship with a total weight of 30 pounds and 11 ounces.

Wilson estimated it took him five minutes to land his trophy. He was fishing 30 feet deep — using a chartreuse-colored Strike King Sexy Shad 6XD crankbait — when the big bass hit.

“I had a little more than half the spool out, and I was reeling as hard as I possibly could reel,” Wilson said.

Wilson and St. John caught several walleyes and a catfish while using the crankbait. On one occasion, Wilson had a walleye on the line and a largemouth bass followed it to the boat and tried to take the the lure away at the last last second.

The duo kept three bass opening day with a total weight of 8 pounds and 14 ounces.

Things looked promising for a strong finish, when the lower unit on the boat motor suddenly quit working before 8:30 a.m. Saturday With the second day weigh-in scheduled at 3:30 p.m., Wilson and St. John had to scramble and borrow another boat to get back on the water.

“Thankfully, CCHS fishing coach Gabe Keen brought us his boat, and we got approval to swap boats,” said Craig’s father, LaFollette bass fishing pro Dewayne Wilson.

The boys soon changed their strategy for shallow water and began fishing shaky head worms. They got only one keeper the second day and finished the tournament with a total weight of 10 pounds and 12 ounces.

“I missed a good one,” said Craig Wilson. “It was just a tough day on the second day.”

Earlier this year, Wilson and St. John won the inaugural Bass Pro Shops High School Classic on Douglas Lake with a total weight of 16.65 pounds.

Campbell County had two of the 54 boats involved in the open tournament.

“I was pretty proud of them,” said Keen. “It was the best of the best from different clubs from across the country. There were teams from Maine to South Carolina. To qualify for nationals is a pretty big deal.”