Before the sun thought about coming up almost 30 teams were gearing up to compete yesterday at The Bass Federation Colorado High School State Championship. Much like a high school footballs state championship each individual handles pre-game differently. Some anglers where joking around and laughing trying to keep it light hearted while others were keeping to themselves with a silent intensity. You can never tell if thatís nerves or an angler trying to visualize success before getting out on the water. Although everyone has their own way to prepare for the big game make no mistake about it each and every angler there yesterday was there to win.
As light started to appear over the horizon bass boats started backing down the ramp at a feverish pace. This is the locker room of bass fishing anglers are all geared up and ready to test their skills against the best. Coaches are going over game plans with their anglers and thereís begins to be a noticeable buzz in the air. With each passing moment the intensity builds.
After being called in for the national anthem boats swarm in towards the dock. Now the anglers who were trying to keep it light hearted early canít hide it anymore. Everyone is locked in and laser focused. I look up to see the flag blowing in the frigid morning air when the national anthem starts echoing out onto Pueblo Reservoir. I get taken back when I see so many anglers, mentors, coaches, parents, and media there all honoring our flag during the national anthem. As soon as the national anthem is over a roar of cheer follows and itís go time.
Now itís time to launch. After their boat number is called the boat calmly move towards the no wake buoy. This is their walk in the tunnel before they hit the stadium. As soon as they cross that no wake buoy itís time to put the hammer down and run out onto the field! One by one each boat had their moment in the tunnel and running out onto the field which today was Pueblo Reservoir.
Now is when it can get tricky. Adrenaline is still pumping when they take their first cast. Theyíre filled with excitement for the first half hour or so when the adrenaline fades away and the chess match begins. Each bite, follow, fish surfacing, or mark on the fish finder can be a piece of the puzzle anglers will have to put together to win the tournament. When the fishing is great and you canít seem to do anything wrong tournament hours fly by. Conversely when getting even one bite is a grind the day drags on forever and self-doubt can get the best of you.
As Chet and I motored up and down Pueblo reservoir taking pictures during the event you could see it was a grind. Some anglers were struggling to get bit while others were catching fish but nothing that would stretch the tape to 15. Spirits were still high early in the day, but after three or four hours you could see mental fatigue beginning to set in with some anglers.
Tournaments that are a grind like yesterday is why competitors practice so hard at any sport. Itís why you run lines before shooting free throws at the end of baskeball practice with the threat of running more lines if you miss. Anyone can sink a free throw (well most anyone sorry Shaq) when youíre full of energy and thereís no pressure. Not everyone can handle the pressure of making two free throws when youíre down by one point and thereís only two seconds on the clock. When an anglerís confidence is waning and they mental fatigue sets in is when practice becomes so crucial. When an angler feels the slightest tick after going hours without a bite their training takes over. Without thinking they set the hook, fight the fish flawlessly, and as the keeper goes into the net they change the outcome of the tournament. Tournaments like yesterdays are why itís so important for tournament anglers to put their time in on the water even when the bite is painfully slow.
One by one parents, friends, grand-parents, aunts and uncles started packing the marina awaiting the weigh in. Knowing todayís bite was tough for most anglers I watched them one by one pull up to the marina and hop on the dock. You could see in disappointment on some of their faces and in their body language at first, but as they started talking to one another that quickly went away.
Moments before the weigh in started I took a few second to soak everything in. The bite today was tough and only a handful of fish would be weighed, but the marina was packed with anglers, coaches/boaters, volunteers, and of course friends and family supporting the anglers. This represents the future of our sport, the future of fishing, and I couldnít be happier about it. Only one team would be leaving with trophies, and most teams wouldnít be weighting a single fish, but that didnít stop them from staying there to support each other.
During the weigh in each team would go up and represent their team for a picture regardless if they weighed fish or not. They all cheered for each other and smiled when it was their turn for a quick picture. About halfway through the weigh in I was overwhelmed with pride with how these young men and women conducted themselves. They didnít let their success or disappointment get in the way of supporting each other as a community.
When it was all said and done the winning team of Justin Nicks, Miles Harris, and their coach Derek Phillips left as state champions with a winning weight of 5.22lbs. The two anglers and boater won with grace and will do a phenomenal job representing the state of Colorado at Nationals. The second-place team of Cody James, Colton Arrigo, and their coach/boater also qualified for nationals with a weight of 2.28.
Make no mistake about it High School Bass Fishing is a sport that deserves just as much media coverage as any other sport. I want to thank KOAA News 5 for coming out and covering yesterdayís tournament and hope other news stations and newspapers take note.
The water is their stadium, and Iím a fan.
Iíll be sharing pictures, videos of the weigh in, and more write ups on BTFMís Facebook page soon.
Fishing has been a passion of mine ever since I can remember. Iíve committed myself to helping others not only catch more and bigger fish, but also enjoy themselves more while doing so.