DAYTON, Tenn. — A field of 347 boats and 1,033 total participants took part in Saturday’s Costa Bassmaster High School Southern Open presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods on Chickamauga Lake.
The event broke records before the first cast was made, with the largest field in B.A.S.S. history. Then once the fishing began, the records just kept falling.
Logan Henderson and Steven Swann from the Springville (Ala.) Anglers won with a 24-pound, 1-ounce limit of bass that now ranks as the largest ever caught in a B.A.S.S. high school event. They finished just ahead of Colton Williams and Chase Taylor of the Good Hope (Ala.) fishing team, who placed second with 22-11.
The previous record catch of 23-14 was caught by Alex Heintze and Justin Watts in 2015.
“It started off kind of slow for us,” said Henderson, a sophomore at Springville High School in St. Clair County, Ala. “Then we caught one about 5 pounds — Steven did — and at about 10:15(a.m.), we caught one that weighed 8-3.
“Then from about 10:15 until about noon, it just got slow.”
Henderson and Swann caught all of their fish around brushpiles in 12 to 15 feet. They couldn’t get the bass to bite anything but a Strike King 5XD crankbait — but it wasn’t for lack of trying.
“We fished a football head jig and a spoon, but we couldn’t get them to hit either one,” Swann said. “All of a sudden, from about 1 to 3, they just started biting again.”
It was the first trip for the pair to Chickamauga, and they only had about a day and a half to practice. Their boat captain, Kenny Pannell, who is also Logan’s grandfather, arrived a day earlier than the youngsters and did a little scouting himself.
There were moments of anxiety for the winning team during the midday lull — even with two big fish already in the livewell.
“It’s tough, because you’re anticipating another big one,” Henderson said. “We didn’t want to waste those two big ones we had already caught.
“We finally changed areas, and the second spot where we started catching them had brush that was a little more scattered.”
Henderson and Swann knew by the time they got to the weigh-in stage that they would need a big weight to replace Williams and Taylor as the leaders. The eventual second-place finishers weighed in early, and had been sitting in the hot seat with 22-11 for more than an hour when Henderson and Swann took the stage.
The impressive catch of Williams and Taylor was anchored by a largemouth that weighed 7-10.
“We pulled up on a spot where we knew there was some grass, but we didn’t catch anything for about 30 minutes,” Taylor said. “We moved a little deeper and started catching them. That was the only spot we stayed in all day.”
The spot, which was only about 20 feet long, was the kind of place tournament anglers of all ages dream of finding.
“We caught 43 fish out of that one spot,” Williams said. “It was just a lucky spot that we had never fished before.”
The anglers stayed with their special spot as long as they could. But with boat troubles dogging them throughout the day, they decided to make a 35-minute run back to another spot that was closer to the launch site.
Fishing was much tougher for them after the move.
“I know we could have caught another kicker if we could have stayed there longer,” Taylor said.
Taylor spent most of his day using a 1/2-ounce chartreuse ChatterBait with a small swimbait trailer. Williams said he used a 1/2-ounce crawfish-colored Rat-L-Trap.
Another record that fell was the largest bass ever caught during a B.A.S.S. high school event. Chase Carter and Adam Sansom of the North West Georgia Anglers established a new mark — one that will be hard to top in the future — with a largemouth that weighed 10-11.
On a day when numerous bass in the 7- to 8-pound range were caught, Carter and Sansom easily earned the award for Big Bass.
“He thought he had a catfish,” said Sansom, a high school junior. “But then when that thing opened its mouth, my heart just stopped.”
Carter, a freshman, had a similar reaction.
“It probably took me an hour to stop shaking,” he said.
Rounding out the Top 5 were Houston Calvert and Chase Abbott, Cold Springs Fishing Team (20-14), Justin Lowery and James Cobbs, Cullman High School (20-7) and Chace Gregory and Tucker Weidler, Helena High School (20-6).
The Top 35 teams from the event qualified for the Costa Bassmaster High School National Championship presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, scheduled for June 19-24 on Kentucky Lake in Paris, Tenn.