The popularity of organized bass fishing has exploded recently and one of the results was the creation of many collegiate bass fishing teams and collegiate tournament series. With bass fishing growing at the college level, it was inevitable that high schools would get involved in the excitement, too. The Student Angler Federation was created by The Bass Federation (TBF) to promote and support high school bass fishing. The SAF helps with the formation of high school teams at individual schools, supports state and regional tournaments and provides a national tournament for high schoolers.
I was disappointed when I could not participate in last year’s SAF Colorado State High School Tournament, so that just added to my anticipation of this year’s event. After months of preparation, the past week has been especially difficult as I tried to focus on year-end finals at school, but could only think about how I would do at the SAF tournament at Lake Pueblo. I only had half of the class to finish my science final because my parents were picking me up early so that we could make it to Pueblo for the mandatory 5-6 pm pre-tournament meeting. I finished, checked my work, and turned in my test just before my teacher said the office was calling for me. When kids asked me why I was leaving early, I told them I had to go to a bass tournament.
The pre-tournament meeting was packed, which made sense when we found out there were 24 two-person teams in the tournament. It seemed like there was a lot of tension and excitement in the room as the organizers went over the rules and informed us of the launch order. My partner, Eli Zeek, and I were told that we would be the 5th boat to launch. Then we were all told to be at the boat ramp to load the boats at 5 am. I went to bed early that night knowing that my morning would start bright and early.
Everyone met at the boat ramp on time to load the boats and get ready to launch. Our number was called at approximately 5:40 and our boat captain, Matt Massey, and his 250 HP Mercury engine got us to our first spot and fishing in no time at all. Despite all of our preparation and excitement it was soon clear that Mother Nature wasn’t going to cooperate with nice weather - it was either raining or extremely windy the whole day. Even with the tough conditions, we still managed to catch four keeper fish. Two of the fish were spotted bass which were caught on senkos and the other two were smallies caught on tubes.
Everyone had to be back for the weigh in by 2 pm. When we heard that most teams only managed two or three keepers, we felt pretty confident. When it was our turn to weigh in, we had to beat 6 lbs 13 oz to move into first – we knew it would be tight. Our fish got measured to make sure they all made the 15 inch limit and we headed to the scales. TBF provided their weigh-in trailer so we got to climb the steps with our catch just like the pros. We handed our bag to Sam Heckman and we waited. He announced we were the new leaders with 7 lbs even. Several more teams weighed in and we held our lead. With only a few teams left to go the only team with a five fish limit went to the scales. We were hoping that they were all skinny. It turned out that their bag weighed 7 lbs 13 oz. We were disappointed as we had just come one fish short of winning. After all the teams had weighed in, we held on to second place. Congratulations to Trevor and Peter on their victory. I hope they go on to win the regional tournament and make it to nationals. Even though our time at the top of the leader board didn’t last, we still had a great time and were happy with our performance.
I really want to thank all of the organizers of the event, as well as all of the boat captains who volunteered their time to sit on their boats and watch us fish wishing they could too. Matt was a great coach, and Eli and I learned a lot from him. Several of the boat captains, including Matt, had spent the last week at a tournament at Navajo Reservoir and didn’t arrive at Pueblo until after 10 pm Friday night. This is a great opportunity for kids and it wouldn’t exist without everyone’s support.