By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
MURRAY—Two days of rain and cold weather made fishing conditions tough for those competing in the KHSAA State Bass Fishing Tournament at KenLake Marina, but in the end, South Laurel’s Austin Turner and Lucas Powell were able to bring home third place in the tournament.
The South duo caught 10 fish over the two-day event for a total weight of 31 pounds, three ounces. Bracken Robertson and Allen Starks of Calloway County won the state title with a two-day total of 34 pounds, four ounces, while second place went to Muhlenberg County’s Zach Warner and Ridge Porter with a two-day total of 32 pounds, seven ounces.
“I’m tickled to death,” South Laurel coach Dennis Hammonds said. “Especially considering the two teams that beat us this was their home lake, so they knew it a lot better.”
Knowing a lake is a big part of catching fish. Those who fish a lake regularly know where the fish are, while others have a trial and error period before fishing a good spot. South Laurel got there a few days before the tournament to pre-fish the lake to try and determine the hot spots.
“We all divided up the lake to see what we could find,” Hammonds said. “On the first day they figured it out and went down a cove and did a real good job.”
Kyle Smith was the boat captain the Turner and Powell. Hammonds wanted to thank all the boat captains and South Laurel’s sponsors.
“Without them we couldn’t have done this,” Hammond said.
South Laurel’s other team, Wesley Baker and Wade Ball, struggled on the first and didn’t catch any fish. They came back on day two to catch five for a total weight of 12 pounds, 15 ounces, good enough to place them 27th.
“I’m real proud of them,” Hammond said. “To be able to come back on the second day and catch enough fish to place in the top 30 is pretty good.” Jamie Creech was their boat captain.
“All four are great kids and I will have them all back next year,” Hammonds said, noting that Turner and Powell are just freshmen, while Baker and Ball are juniors.
Hammonds said his fishermen used a variety of baits to land their fish.
“We used a little bit of everything to figure out what the fish we biting on,” Hammonds said.
Hammonds, who was assisted by Darin Reed, said he sees the sport growing bigger and bigger.
“It’s a great sport,” Hammonds said. “Anybody that wants to fish can. We don’t turn anybody away. Boys and girls are welcome. The only thing that will keep you from being a part of this team will be grades. This sport is a little different than others because you are competing against the fish more than other teams.”
North Laurel had one team representing them at state, as Connor McKnight and Dustin Chesnut finished in 22nd place. They caught three fish on day one for six pounds, four ounces, while on day two, they caught three for nine pounds, seven ounces, giving them a two-day total of 15 pounds, 11 ounces.
“That’s been the story of our first year,” North Laurel coach Nathan Stewart said of the weather conditions. “We had two opens and both were cold and rainy. This was the same type of weather.”
Unlike most other teams, North Laurel had only one day to fish the lake before the competition started. Stewart said that put his team at a little bit of a disadvantage.
“For one day preparation and to finish 22nd is not bad,” Stewart said. “It takes some time to find quality fish to win a tournament. We had one day to find those fish.”
Stewart said on the first day of the tournament his team ran up to a creek on the northside of the lake by a dam where the water was extremely rough in the morning. “That scared us a little bit,” Stewart said. “The boys caught a lot of fish but not the right bites. They caught 12-15 a day but never got in that three-to-five pound range you need to win tournaments.”
Stewart also noted they couldn’t have done as well as they did had it not been for boat captain Freddie Adkins.
“He took a couple of days off work and really without him we probably would have been going around in circles on the lake,” Stewart said. “He helped the kids and it’s great to have a guy with the knowledge that he had. That was very helpful.”
Stewart was assisted by Tony Johnson this year, and he hopes this trip to the state was a learning experience for not only his team but the coaches as well.
“This is something we can grow on,” Stewart said. “We know what to expect next year. This was just the first puzzle piece to build the program. Both Connor and Dustin are juniors so they will be back next year and be ambassadors for our team.”
Stewart also thanked several individuals for their help this season.
“I want to thank the NLHS administration, especially Mr. Black for letting NLHS jump at the opportunity to have a high school bass fishing team, and all the sponsors that help with the team.”