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Smallmouth top scales at CCHS Tourney

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Bruce, Wells take first with 6.2 pounds

By Chris Cannon

ccannon@lafollettepress.com

Smallmouth bass were the fish that tipped the scales for two Campbell County High School boats on Saturday morning.

While Jordan Bruce and Nick Well’s boat didn’t catch the largest fish of the day, their 2.95-pound smallmouth was enough to push them into first position.

“It was a pretty big weekend,” Wells said. “We were hoping to win one. We got third in the last one, and we couldn’t handle third.”

With a three fish total, the 19-inch smallmouth was enough to tip the scales their way.

Bruce roped in the fish, while only Blake Phillips was able to top his total with a smallmouth that tipped the scales at 3.10 pounds.

“It was a good experience to catch a big fish on Norris Lake,” Bruce said. “It was a good experience to catch one in the tournament.”

For head coach Will VanEtten, it’s just good to see his team boating this type of fish.

With the water temperatures still hovering in the mid 40s, the bite isn’t what it should be.

“I think the water temperature started out at around 46 degrees,” VanEtten said. “That’s really cold water. The bite’s still really slow. For them to be able to go out there and catch them, it just shows how hard they’re working at it.”

VanEtten also noted that the tournaments are going to change in the coming weeks.

While 6.2 pounds took home the first place award this past weekend, that should change.

As water temperatures rise, the bites will turn on, allowing a lot more fish to be weighed in.

“It will not surprise me at all to start seeing double digits come next month,” he said.

However, one team could have come close to double digits this weekend.

With two smallmouth coming in at an average of 3 pounds, Phillips and Tyler Irwin had the worst possible thing happen.

Rogers pulled in a smallmouth that only reached 17 and a half inches in length. According to Tennessee state laws, it must reach 18 inches in order to be included in the weigh in.

“In a tournament like this, where six pounds won it, every fish counts,” VanEtten said. “If you catch three smallmouth that are 17 and a half inches, you just threw back a 10- or 12-pound bag of fish.”

The released fish would have propelled Rogers and Irwin to a first place finish with the extra weight.

However, for the two, it wasn’t a bad day to finish in second place.

“This was both of our first tournament,” Irwin said.

With the tournament on Feb. 17 being snowed out, the two weighed in for the first time on Saturday.

For Phillips, it was a good tournament, as he caught the big fish of the tournament.

“We felt pretty confident,” Irwin said. “We figured we’d place pretty good in the tournament, and we were going to do pretty good with that big fish.”

Catching the big fish excited the boat, as Irwin netted the smallmouth for second place.

“He said it was a big one,” Irwin said, recalling the catch. “He told me to get the net. We were both running up and down the boat to fight it and keep it from breaking off. Once we got it in the net, we felt pretty confident.”

Bagging those big smallmouth were a welcome thing for the high school fishermen.

After waking up so early to launch boats by 6:45 a.m., it was a reward.

“I got up and left my house at 4:30(a.m.),” Irwin said. “I got up (to the graveyard) a little after 6(a.m.). We were the second boat to put in the water, so we were ready for it.”

For VanEtten, that shows the work his team puts in.

“They get up and go to school in a routine everyday,” he said. “Sometimes they don’t fee like going to school, but the fishing is something they really want to do…if I tell them to be there at 6:45(a.m.), almost everybody’s there by 6:30(a.m.). They’re ready to go.”