*In your best Robin Williams impression* Goooood Morning Xplorers!
It’s that time of the year again — yep you guessed it, it’s time to go fishing! (Woohoo! I’m ready to get back out on the water! How about you, Soph?) Absolutely KB! After properly introducing ourselves in last week's post, Introducing: The Dig Deeper Duo, I am ready to get back to our originally scheduled programming — a series originally started by KB and Kenny! I hope have done the series justice. (You caught on pretty quickly, Sophie! Hook, line, and sinker!)
KB and I will be your not so expert, but always supportive, commentators from here on out. Now, let's get the inside line on our main junior fishermen, Carson and Grant!
Last we heard from the boys, they had just, well… won the entire ASABFA Junior Classic Tournament! (Check out What a Bag of Fish to get the whole story!) The boys were presented with plenty of awards at an honorable banquet at a local college in Alabama. Carson and Grant racked up awards such as Anglers of the Year for the middle school team, and Carson won for Big Fish of the Year as well as States Champs Largest Fish caught of any middle school team! (A standing ovation for these two right here!)
We couldn’t be more proud of these two — they fished their hearts out last season, and we’re looking forward to another fine season ahead of us. This is the boys’ eighth grade year, and their last year competing on the middle school team — not that they haven’t been competing like the pros already!
The Three River Throwdown!
Carson and Grant kept it pro level going into the 2023 fall tournament known as the Three River Throwdown — A tournament aptly named for its three different river systems. The boys will partake in five tournaments on three river systems including Lake Martin on the Tallapoosa River, Lake Jordon and Logan Martin on the Coosa River and Lake Eufaula on the Chattahoochee River. However, it’s not called the Three River Throwdown just for the rivers. (Nuh uh!) Once again the boys will not only be up against the junior teams, but they will go head to head with the high school teams as well! It’s an all-ages throwdown, the best of the best!
“The boys were feeling confident,” says Kenny, Carson’s father, TerraX co-founder, Dig Deeper ASBFA spokesperson, and Caron and Grant’s biggest fan. Even “with a potential target on their back from their past winning streak of five years, the boys were ready to win it all again” and maybe even go to nationals! However, Kenny admits it'll be tricky. “This year's team is the largest I’ve seen, with a total of 108 boats in the first tournament and 17 of those boats from the Benjamin Russell team.” (That’s a lot to compete with. (It sure is!) Even still, Kenny repeats with emphasis, “No doubt the boys were ready.”
Clear Water and Tricky Fish
The boys dove head first into the Lake Martin tournament, hoping their home lake would give them an advantage; however, Lake Martin did not make it easy on our boys. With not much rainfall for the past couple weeks, on the day of the tournament the water was pretty and clear. Perfect weather for a day out on the lake, right? Nope! Not for fishing. Kenny corrects us, saying, “This makes fishing a little different than normal. If the water is clear, it’s hard to trick the fish into biting. If the water is a little stained, it's easier to catch the fish because the fish can't see you coming.” (Ya gotta bring the element of SURPRISE!)
So, with these ironically beautiful, clear water conditions, the boys were forced to resort to other creative solutions to catching not just their 5-fish limit but their best weight as well. This is what separates the amateurs from the pros. Don't you worry, our boys had a few tricks up their sleeves…
Skim the Line!
With clearer waters, the boys are better able to see the fish, but this also means the fish are better able to see them! In a pickle such as this, what are the boys to do? Kenny explains that lighter and smaller is the way to go! “Using a lighter weight fishing line and smaller bait makes the line less visible,” and therefore, “easier to trick the fish!” This is simply known as skimming. (And here I thought skimming was just for reading homework!)
Top Water Fishing
In combination with skimming the water with their bait, the boys practiced a clever fishing tactic called top-water fishing. “There was a lot of shad (smaller freshwater fish) schooling (swimming in groups) on the surface during the day,” says Kenny. Due to this large group of shad, “the bass come to feed on the surface” and, you guessed it, the boys go after them! By taking advantage of the collection of smaller fish, the boys could hopefully catch the largemouth bass fish! (How smart is that?!) “Where the fish were feeding on the surface, our top-water lures skimmed across the water, and we caught several spotted bass doing this,” Kenny says, utterly enthused.
Brush Piles and... Buses?
Even though the boys were able to catch their limit fairly quickly by using the tactics of skimming and top-water fishing, the boys were determined to weigh in some heavier fish, the largemouth bass. (These big boys mean business, and they can be tricky to handle.)
Their final tactic is something of an advanced nature and includes baiting fish not with food but with shelter. This tactic is called a brush pile. Brush piles are simply underwater habitats for fish which can be can be manmade or natural bundles of fallen or cut trees. In larger bodies of water (such as the Gulf) they can also be made from empty army tanks or even a fully submerged bus! — Yes, like “the wheels on the bus go… straight to the bottom of the ocean!” (Haha! Good one, Sophie!) These underwater habitats attract schools of fish, providing shelter and protection, and create artificial habitats that allow for major fishing pockets.
To our surprise, these artificial reefs are legal in fishing tournaments and are either naturally made, can be cut and sunk by fishermen, or have even been created and marked with buoys by the state. Our main man Doug (Grant’s dad) has sunk a few trees for the boys in his day, including just ahead of this latest round of competition. But Ssshhhh! Every fishing habitat needs to be kept a secret for only your team to know the location of, giving our kids an advantage.
Collaborate with Your Team!
And that brings us to our last and final tactic of the first tournament — to share information, tactics, and keep up your best fishing for your team! (Sharing is caring, after all, folks!) “Everyone benefits when your boat fishes well,” says Kenny. When one boat catches their limit early, it is important to continue on doing your best for most of your time on the water. Kenny tells us, “Communication across the water is very important!” (As a writer and editor, I agree — communication *is* important!) A smart captain will communicate with the other boat captains on their team to find out where the most and best catches are so that everyone catches their limit and the largest they can get. (It’s not just a one-boat wonder sport!) “Even our boys had their five fish in twenty minutes; however, they were trying to upgrade the rest of the day” to get the best score possible. “This is a team sport, not an individual sport,” adds Kenny. “All boats matter! Your boat matters with every fish you get. If you finish high, even if you are not in the top ten, you are helping the team.”
Kenny emphasizes, “There is a strategy to get the team to win these tournaments — the protection of fishing locations (like brush piles!) and good communication between boats.” You heard it here folks! It's not just about your fishing line, bait type, or technological advancements, it’s all about knowledge, preparation, and teamwork! (Hoo boy, there sure is a lot that goes into these tournaments! I’m just glad we get to watch from the sidelines.)
Soooo, how did the boys do after all that, in their first tournament in the Throwdown?
Strong Results on a Packed Clear Day!
“We did good on this lake!” Kenny tells us. Even with all the odds against them, “our boys caught at least 20 or 25 fish!” Unfortunately, none of the fish were all that big — mostly spotted bass instead of largemouth bass. Therefore, due to the lack of large fish and the limit of five fish at weigh-in, the boys weighed-in a total of 7.9 lbs, which landed them in 17th place. And out of 108 boats, (lest we forget to include both high school and middle school boats) we’d say that’s pretty dang impressive! (We sure would!) Three of their team members from Benjamin Russell placed in the top 10, and overall, to no one's surprise, the Benjamin Russell Team ended up winning the entire first tournament.
What a throwdown! We couldn't be more proud to see the boys conquer once more. All of us here at the TerraX Sports Center are eager to see what kind of conditions the lakes will throw at the boys and what kinds of tactics they will think up next!
— TerraX Sportscaster (Digital Artist and Technical Writer), Sophie