Youth fishermen land big fish in state tournaments

Nov. 13—Although the weather has turned cold and many people are bundling up, the fish are still biting and that has kept the Haywood Anglers, Haywood County's youth fishing team, as busy as ever.

The team competes in the Bassmasters High School Series against some of the top school and independent bass fishing teams in the state.

And the team is growing. This season the Haywood Anglers are fielding four two-man boats: Evin Moore and Bridger Jones, Aidan Ellege and Colten Brown, Carson Mosteller and Colton Mosteller and Levin Brooks and Keegan Mahoney. Moore and Jones also compete in the Palmetto Series in South Carolina.

Middle school students Dawson Henson and Cooper Rhinehart joined this season to compete in the Junior Division.

Haywood Anglers has competed in two North Carolina and one South Carolina tournament so far this season.

First tournament arrives

The first two occurred on the same day, Sept. 23, so Moore and Jones had to choose between the North Carolina or South Carolina tournament. They competed at Clarks Hill Lake, located northwest of Augusta, South Carolina.

Moore and Jones came in 28th, which Moore said is a fine showing considering the Palmetto Series is even tougher than the North Carolina Series.

"There's a lot more kids in that, and they've been doing it a lot longer," Moore said, who estimated there were roughly 300 boats competing at Clarks Hill Lake. "Clarks Hill is a tough lake to fish. There's a lot of spotted bass, but they're all stunted."

The first Basmassters North Carolina tournament was at High Rock Lake just south of Lexington. In the high school division, Allege and Brown finished eighth place, the Mosteller brothers finished in 13th and Brooks and Mahoney finished in 16th.

Henson and Rhinehart finished in 13th in the Junior Division.

Brooks said Saturday's practice was completely different than Sunday's tournament.

"Practice was sunny, and I was catching fish, but Sunday was rainy and windy. Our whole plan kind of got thrown out the window," he said.

Brooks said Mahoney, who is new to fishing, tried a different bait at their first spot and caught fish, but they couldn't get any with good size. And when weight matters in competition, that's a big deal.

"In tournaments, the fish get pressured and won't bite. So it's a lot harder to catch them. Sometimes you've got to work it extremely slow because they've been pressured so much that day," Brooks said.

Sometimes the team gets creative in finding fish.

"We were fishing near a guy's dock, and he told us where a good spot was," Brooks said. "But it didn't pan out."

"The last hour or two of the tournament, we caught pretty decent fish, but on that lake, it's all about timing. You have to be at the right spot at the right time," he said.

Henson said he and Rhinehart spent the practice day finding spots to come back to the next day.

"We found three spots: the first spot was on the channel, and I found a bunch of fish but couldn't get anything to hit because of the wind. Then went back to the second spot we found during practice and caught two out of it. They were big enough to keep as our small fish. We went up a few of these creeks where there's a bunch of grass," he said. "We finally figured them out the last hour throwing poppers. We found some good ones but couldn't get anything to bite."

Rhinehart said the key is just to give yourself as many opportunities as possible.

"We're just trying to get as many casts as you can to try to catch them," he said. "In practice, Dawson caught four next and then nothing else. The day we caught nothing the entire day."

Junior team scores top-5 finish

The next tournament was at Lake Tillery near Albemarle on Oct. 14.

Moore and Jones finished in 8th place, while Ellege and Brown finished 13th, and the Mostellers came in 44th. Moore said there were just under 100 boats, with roughly 20% being Junior Divison teams.

"Lake Tillery is a smaller lake, more like a dammed-up river," Moore said. "It's mostly large mouth. We had a pretty good day; we caught our limit, but we missed out on a lot of fish. I was missing because I was trying a lot of lures. I caught fish, but I missed my opportunities."

Henson and Rhinehart posted a 5th-place finish in the Junior Division.

Rhinehart said he was surprised by their top-five finish.

"I definitely thought we were at least top-five because we didn't see many people with higher than two pounds in our league."

Henson said he felt accomplished.

"It felt like an accomplishment to be able to go out there, fish and get in the top 10," he said.

What's next?

Haywood Anglers has a busy schedule for the rest of the season despite the incoming cold weather. The Palmetto Series visited Lake Murray near Columbia, South Carolina, on Nov. 11 and then visits Lake Hartwell south of Clemson, South Carolina, on Dec. 2.

"Murray is a huge lake. I'd like to shoot for the top 20 because Palmetto has good competition," Moore said. "I'm going to a lake I've only been to one other time, so forget everything you know and just fish."

Murray said he'd like to finish in the top 35.

"Top 35 would be really nice. The kids that fish that tournament lived around there and know those lakes," he said.

In North Carolina, the series picks back up at Lake Norman near Mooresville on Nov. 18.

Henson said he plans to catch fish and go in with a good attitude, while Rhinehart said he'll throw all he's got to fish well.

The team is busy planning its annual benefit tournament, as well. Kevin Moore said they plan to host it at Lake Fontana in Robbinsville. As always, the team would love to have additional sponsors to support to boys' truck and boat gas, entry fees and more.

Haywood Anglers would like to thank the following sponsors: McElroy and Ellege Realty, Pioneer Supply, Wright Construction, S&S Hunting Supplies, Parkway Heating and Air, Haywood Ace Hardware, SVevents, Blue Rooster Southern Grill, Pisgah View Storage, Clark and Leatherwood, Grey Bridge Timer, Kenneth Guess DDS, Riverside Trailer and Truck Bed, Kristen Rhinehart Realty, DJ & R, Stanberry Insurance, Hoopers Grading, Brian K. Noland Realty, Blue Ridge Dermatology, Jack the Dipper, Pitts Towing, NuWay Cleaners, RCF and Boyd Mountain Log Cabin.

For those interested in joining the team, reach out to Haywood Anglers on Facebook and Instagram.