At the first sign of daylight, 192 boats idled at ready, their occupants bundled up against 30-degree temperatures but hyped for a day of tournament fishing on Lake Martin. More than 30 high school teams from across the state flocked to the lake last month to compete in the Alabama Student Angler Bass Fishing Association season-opener here.
Dadeville anglers Alex Ray and Dillon Burns weighed in the largest bag – a five-fish limit at 14.22 pounds – at the end of the day.
“To come in with more than 14 pounds on Lake Martin is good for anybody, especially some high school student anglers just getting started,” said Heath Daniel, the Dadeville team’s fishing coach.
Ray is a senior this year, but Burns just joined the team, and this was his first high school tournament. Their biggest fish weighed in at 4.76 pounds, but overall, the day was fairly slow. The pair caught only about 10 fish all day, including the heaviest five they brought in.
“Of course, they won’t tell you where they were or what they were doing,” said Daniel. “But we had practiced a couple times when it was warm and sunny, so the big weather change that day changed everything we had worked on.”
As a team, Dadeville’s six teams placed sixth overall. All six teams, including some seventh graders, caught the limit, which Daniel said was impressive, considering the day.
With bad weather conditions and fingers so numb they couldn’t be felt, all the teams stuck it out until weigh-in at 2 p.m.
“It really takes a lot to do that. I could not be more excited and happy for the kids. They fished all day and did well. It makes me excited for what’s to come,” said Daniel.
Fishing is a team-oriented sport, he said, and it takes everyone’s contribution to the effort to do well at the finish.
“It’s more important for the team as a whole to do well and work together to learn more in the long run. It takes a lot of support from friends, family, the school and more,” said Daniel.
Each boat held two student anglers and a boat captain, who was there to simply drive the boat. Boat captains are parents or adult volunteers that devote their days to the tournament but cannot do anything in the form of fishing.
“The town support was huge. People from the schools who are not affiliated with fishing turned out, along with other community members, to see the kids weigh-in,” said Daniel. “Without the help of them and the volunteer captains, we wouldn’t be able to do it.”
Dadeville’s teams all placed in the top 100, including the impressive seventh-grade team of Hunter Ward and Eli Pritchard, who weighed-in at 9.18 pounds.
Dadeville was not the only local team to place in last month’s tournament. Reeltown’s Brody Ledbetter and Brady Hurley caught five fish totaling 12.3 pounds, which landed them in the top 10. Reeltown placed 10th as a team and had two boats that placed in the top 100.
During the day, Benjamin Russell High School anglers caught a lot of fish, and five out of its six teams brought in the limit. Slade Davis and Mary Beth Coker stood out among the Wildcats, placing 22nd with a total weight of 10.93 pounds.
This was the first official tournament for the recently established Horseshoe Bend team, which entered five boats among the assembly. Two teams placed in the top 100, impressive for being fresh to the scene.
By weigh-in time, the weather had cleared, and the sun was finally out, so the anglers could thaw their frozen hands before learning their placements for the day of fishing.
The night before the tournament, student anglers, along with their families were treated to a dinner at the Charles E. Bailey Sportplex, and nearly 900 people were in attendance. Officials reiterated the rules for the ASABFA tournament and provided some advice to the students.
The ASABFA promotes the sport of bass fishing among Alabama’s youth and is the world’s largest independent high school fishing organization, putting more boats on the water than any other high school event.
For more information, or to track this season’s results, visit asabfa.com.