Nick Wells and Jordan Bruce prevailed through the wind and rain on Saturday to take home the top honors for the Campbell County High School fishing team.
The pair roped in 13.45 pounds in the weathered tournament in order to retain the Angler of the Year awards.
“We knew we had it when we caught the big fish,” Wells said. “We’d seen (Caleb Dople and Zach Paul) weigh in five smaller fish, and we were pretty excited just to get the rods and the bragging rights.”
However, according to Wells, the bragging hasn’t exactly began yet.
“We’ve not talked to Dople, but you can tell it tears him up,” he said. “They’ll start pretty soon, though.”
They’ve already started, according to head coach Will VanEtten.
Going into Saturday’s tournament, Paul held the top weight for a fish on the season.
Wells and Bruce had a little trick up their sleeve, however.
“It was funny, because when I told them to weigh their big fish first, they pulled out a good fish, about three pounds,” VanEtten said. “They threw it on the scales. Then, they said, “Woah, woah woah, wait a minute. That’s the wrong one.’ He pulls out a 5.25 pounder and throws it down. Zach Paul’s hair about fell out.”
The fish outweighed Paul’s biggest fish by a fraction of a margin.
Up until Bruce’s 5.25 pound fish, Paul’s 5.1 pounder had ruled the roost.
The trick the Anglers of the Year played was just a sweet reminder.
“They did that on purpose,” VanEtten said. “They’ve got a kick out of it. They’re strutting around like they own the place.”
That extra confidence may just pay off.
On June 1, the team travels to Chattanooga, where they will compete in the state tournament on Lake Nickajack.
“It’s got us pretty confident about going to state,” Wells said. “We’re pretty sure we might be able to do pretty good in that tournament, too.”
Even though Paul and Dople fell in the Angler of the Year contest, they still have a chance to take down their teammates in the state tournament.
During the tournament, it’s not based on school totals, but rather a team total.
One team will come away victorious, representing a school.
There’s expected to be close to 100 boats.
“I can’t wait,” Dople said. “It’s going to be great, having all the other schools from around here come down. It’s going to be huge.”
The competition is going to be stiff, according to VanEtten.
“Some of the best student-anglers in the state will be in this tournament,” the coach said. “They’ve come from all ends of the state. These boys are going to have to be on top of their game.”
That’s just exactly what they’re planning.
The team’s will come into the tournament with a vast amount of preparation, as the intramural tournaments have gotten them prepared for the state level.
“It’s practice, practice, practice,” Dople said. “Every time you get to go out on the lake and do a little bit of fishing, it always helps. The competition keeps everybody ready for that.”
For his partner, Paul, the experience has helped the team grow together.
“It’s got me and Dople tying knots and getting the net for each other,” Paul said. “Our casting is getting better, and here, it’s OK if we get tangled up, because we can fish in. In the state tournament, there’s no room for breaks. We’ve got to tie it all on, and we’ve got to be perfect up there.”
According to VanEtten, his kids are as prepared as any.
With boats such as Paul and Dople or Bruce and Wells competing, the possibilities are endless.
“Their chances are as good as anybody’s out there,” VanEtten said. “I don’t care if there are kids of paid professional anglers in the state of Tennessee, those kids have no more ability than the kids I have. It’s just a matter of them being able to get on the right fish on that lake.”