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Cold with a Lure in the Water

Updated: Aug 25, 2023

It’s 6am in the morning, the fog has settled across the lake and out past the docks our boys have got their lures in the water – ready to catch anything and everything! Yes, that’s right, our star fishermen, Carson and Grant are back to help Benjamin Russell defend their third year championship in the ASABFA Tournaments!

boy and fish

Out on the water, the boys are always guaranteed a couple hitches during the tournament. Do y'all remember Carson’s broken foot? “He’s back up and running at full capacity!” says Carson’s father, our own Kenny Pearce. But that doesn't mean this spring did not have its own impediments. It was a spring full of high winds, freezing conditions, blinding fog, and evasive fish. “It has been a tough spring for tournaments, but the boys have done a great job — caught a ton of fish all together,” says Grant’s father, Doug Sheffield.

To remind all our Xplorers and fishing fans, each year, Carson and Grant compete as a boat of three (two junior competitors and their captain, Jackson Kelly) on the Benjamin Russell School bass fishing team. In the fall, it’s all ages competing against the best of the best, but in the spring, everyone is up against their own age group competing for the middle and high school championships! Each boat fishes four total tournaments at the lakes of their choice, keeping the three best scores out of four. Then, the total points for a team to make it to championships is based on the top two scores. All caught up? (Get it? Caught up…) Let’s see how Carson and Grant turned it out during their four chosen tournaments this season.

The Power of Colorful Pep Talks

Lake Jordan — 2/18

The boys started out on Lake Jordan, or “Lake Jurdon,” as Doug, a deep-rooted local, calls it. The nerves were evident for the first tournament of the season, not just for the boys, but especially for Doug. “As a first time captain, I didn't want to hurt the team!” says Doug. Yup that’s right, with Jackson out at his own conflicting tournament, Doug, being the supportive father he is, stepped in as captain of the SS Carson and Grant! As Carson and Grant’s first soccer coach way back in the day, everyone knew Doug was the man for the job. “Doug always wants the boys to do well as well as have fun.” Kenny told us, adding, “Doug can be really competitive too.” (That will come in handy.)

And boy was the team tested, right out of the gate! (or should we say dock?) Out on the water, the weather welcomed them with open arms and frigid winds. “Carson looked at me, rod reel in frozen hands, telling me how cold he was!” Doug explains, “The weather turned 28 degrees at takeoff,” and the “wind was blowing a gazillion miles an hour.”

Being the natural leader he was, Doug knew it was time for one of those motivational pep-talks and buck-up speeches. “Every captain has a come to Jesus meeting,” Doug says. “You can be cold,” he told the boys, “or you can be cold with a lure in the water.” And with that, the boys understood there was no point in sitting out in the cold for nothing! “Our attitudes were not perfect, but I would have long since quit before them.” says Doug.

With “a very colorful pep talk” under their belts, the boys put forth their best efforts and came back with just two fish at 3.53 lbs, giving them a total of 194 points. Only one other team came back with the limit of a total of five fish that day, and our boys came in 7th place as a boat. However, despite the day consisting of “very tough conditions for the junior league,” Doug explains, “our (school) team still won first place in the tournament with only four total fish!” (two fish, two Benjamin Russell boats — the second boat’s catch weighed in at 5.21 lbs, earning them a total of 391 points all together).

As the captain for the day, Doug says, “I thought I was a complete failure, but the boys even out-fished the high schoolers!” He admits that “the boys know more about fishing than I do, and they knew that every little fish mattered.” (Couldn't be more true!) “I was proud of their attitudes, knowing it would be a low fish tournament. They think my ranting and raving is funny, even when I have my panic attacks,” as he calls them, “but I think my pep talk helped.”

Captain Jack is back!

Lake Neely Henry — 3/18

Despite the return of our trusty captain, Jackson Kelly, the March 18 tournament on Lake Neely Henry was giving the boys a tough time. “It was completely muddied out,” says Doug, meaning that the fish just weren't going to bite. Nevertheless! As ninth out on the water and a total of six hours before they had to be back at the dock, the SS Carson & Grant was determined to make the most of their day.

After the long day and only a few bites in the boat, the boys were ready to call it. Just when the six hours were almost up and the boys were at the end of their lines but still under their limit (less than five fish in the boat), they decided as a team to stop way down south at a reliable fishing pocket they had known about and attempt to throw their lines for one more point. Wouldn't you know it, because of their efforts, they actually pulled it off, catching the limit of five total fish! It was a “last minute swing and a hit!” says Doug, adding, “With Jackson back, they caught plenty of fish.”

At weigh in, the boys summed up a total of 7.24 lbs and earned themselves 196 points! (That’s Only four points behind first place!) The boy’s landed in fifth place and contributed greatly to the first place win for the entire Benjamin Russell team! Doug explains that they were “one of two teams to catch the limit” — first through fourth place may have had slightly heavier fish, but they didn’t catch as many as our boys!

Logan Martin — 4/15

At Lake Logan Martin, the boys had better luck with the weather — after the morning hours, that is. “It was 9:30 AM before they got in the water,” says Kenny. After a three or four hour fog delay (that Pirates of the Caribbean kind of fog) Captain Jackson and the boys shuttled out onto the foggy waters with Kenny and Doug awaiting eagerly on the shoreline.

“The boys persevered well!” says Doug, adding, “Tough conditions are better for us because no one else is going to luck into this thing.” However, once they were out on the boat, Doug says it turned into a “blue-bird day with bright blue skies.” The boys’ turned fortune didn't stop there. Even after losing an hour of fishing and being 44th at take off, the boys finished fourth with a total of 9.55 lbs, catching the limit and earning a total of 197 points! (That’s one more point than we got at Neely Henry and only three points away from first place!) To add to the good luck, our fellow Benjamin Russell teammates placed eighth and, once again, as a team Benjamin Russell finished in first place! (That’s three wins total!)

Home Field Advantage

Lake Martin — 4/29

The Benjamin Russell team was sitting pretty; however, for the boys, it all came down to the final pre-Championship tournament at Lake Martin. Could they dominate at all four tournaments? (Keep in mind, they are only required to submit their top three scores to make it to the championships.)

The pressure was on, but the weather was on its best behavior. “It was a beautiful day! 60 degrees at take off and 70 degrees at weigh-in,” says Doug. Donning on his captain's hat once again, Doug felt as if he could guide the SS Carson and Grant to victory, saying, “We won the first three tournaments sooo…” It’s fair to say his expectations were high. The boys were ready to “defend Lake Martin,” says Kenny. “Lake Martin is a lake they are very used to … we all grew up fishing on this lake.” Kenny too was confident the boys would be their very best no matter the points. “If we could just win the darn thing!” says Doug.

fishing tournament, Alabama, Lake Martin

At the end of it all, “We did really well on Lake Martin,” Kenny tells us, with the caveat, “It was a bunch of small fish and no big fish, but we caught the limit!” Doug adds, “If it’s easy, we gotta get the big fish, and if it's hard, it doesn’t matter, let’s just catch what we can.” The team surely proved themselves — Carson and Grant placed in fourth place with a 6.98-lbs weigh-in and a total of 197 points. For reference, Kenny explains that on Lake Martin, “Every bass caught is 12 inches long and weighs 1 lbs, so anything bigger than that is great!" Their fellow Benjamin Russell boats placed fifth and first place, placing their school team in first place and securing their spot in the championship.

Winner Winner Fish Dinner!

With top marks in each tournament, the boys ranked in fourth as a boat and, after pulling their top scores together with the rest of their team, ended up ranking in second heading into the championship in June. That’s a total of 391 points from Lake Jordan, 395 points from Neely Henry, and 390 points from Lake Martin for all of the Benjamin Russell Junior teams. “In a nutshell,” says Doug, “our team has won every tournament we have entered as a school team.” And as boats, “We have placed in every tournament this year! Whatever happens, we can't do more than what we've done.” (What more can you ask for?)

“Carson and Grant were a big part of the winning this year,” Doug continues, “and their growth is tremendous since last year!” With Jackson as their captain, Doug says that the boys can fish any technique. “Their skill level has risen to the point where anything is on the table.” He adds, “Despite having an amateur captain, we've done very well, and hey, I did my best!” (We agree, Captain Doug.) Overall, Doug says he was really proud of the boys' attitude, their knowledge, and “how well they stayed in the game.”

It just goes to show that even in freezing weather, a foggy haze, or muddy waters, you can still come out on top, so long as you put your best foot forward and keep your lure in the water. It is “neck-and-neck in points.” says Doug. And when the State Championships arrive on June 22nd on Lake Eufaula, our boys will be going for their third state championship in a row on a lake where, “historically, we’ve done really well,” says Kenny. We will be right here to root them on.

Be sure to take a look at the tournament scores on the ASABFA website and keep up with the SS Carson & Grant on our website, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, where we will always keep you on the line.

See you soon, Xplorers!

— The TerraX Team


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