The air is crisp, the leaves are slowly starting to change colors, and — best of all — the temperatures are finally dropping below 90 degrees! With all this natural beauty and gorgeous weather, it seems a shame to stay inside. That does it! Today, we’re trading in our trowels for fishing poles and hitting the lake!
Well, not really. But we are sponsoring a fishing team!
You read that right! TerraXplorations is excited to sponsor the Benjamin Russell fishing team in their competitions this fall, and we’re particularly proud to support Carson Pearce — son of our own Kenny Pearce — on his journey to epic fishing domination! As a seventh grader, Carson and his teammate, Grant Sheffield, will be competing against middle and high school students from all across Alabama Districts 5-10. Don’t think for one second that being one of the younger fishers will be a disadvantage, though — Carson and Grant won the state championship last year, and they’re already starting this season off strong.
The Benjamin Russell Anglers have a long history of success on the lake, and they’re ready and geared up to have another great season. Let’s take a little ride aboard the S.S. TerraX and deep dive into the competition, shall we?
But First, a Couple of Shout Outs!
These fishing competitions are no joke, y’all. This year, Benjamin Russell High School has seven boats competing in its Middle School division and nine competing for the High School division. Each boat has two anglers, so that’s a grand total of 32 fishers out there! That’s a lot of people to manage, and we couldn’t be more grateful to coach Josh Williams, who does a fantastic job teaching the kids to be the best anglers they can be and guiding them to success.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention our incredible boat captains, too. The team provides the anglers, but it’s kind of hard to fish out on a lake without a boat! Not to mention — it’s important to have an adult on board who can drive the boat and help out in case of a safety emergency. That’s where our good friend Jackson Kelly comes in. Grant’s dad, Doug, asked Jackson if he would be willing to share his boat and donate his time to Carson and Grant, and Jackson generously agreed. A successful fisherman himself, Jackson’s been up and at ‘em bright and early, helping the boys get in their practice time and making sure they’re ready to compete.
Fishing Tournaments: The Basics
For all you folks out there who may not know how these fishing tournaments work, we’ll give you the rundown! The way we do things here on the Benjamin Russell team, we have two separate seasons: There’s the fall tournament trail and the spring tournament trail. At the end of the spring season, the state champions take home their trophies! However, it’s a long journey to get there.
In the fall, the high school and middle divisions compete together, making one big Benjamin Russell team with all 32 anglers. The kids compete in five tournament events (more on those in a minute!), and the teams receive their tournament scores at the end of each event. Scores are calculated by the weight of the fish caught by each boat. Since some schools have more boats than others, tournament officials will take the scores from the top three boats from each school and add them up to calculate the team’s total score for that event. Then, at the end of the five tournaments and the end of the fall season in December, the team with the highest cumulative score wins!
When we come back in the spring, things are just a little bit different. On the spring tournament trail, the high school and middle school divisions compete separately for the state championship. That means that there will be a high school state champion and a middle school state champion. Carson and Grant fished on Benjamin Russell’s middle school team last year, and they took home the state championship!
Throughout both seasons, the kids really do have to put in the time and effort it takes to be successful. Fishing can be a great way to relax and unwind out in nature, but to catch the biggest, best fish, you’ve got to get out there and work hard! It requires practice, long hours on the lake, and plenty of snacks and sunscreen. It takes focus, discipline, and a genuine enthusiasm and respect for nature. The kids in the sport spend time learning about conservation and about how to fish responsibly and safely — we couldn’t be more proud of the spirit they bring to the competition.
The Three-River Throw-Down
And compete they do! During the fall season, the anglers participate in a tournament trail called the “Three-River Throw-Down,” so named because — you guessed it! — the lakes where the teams fish are on three different rivers in Alabama. (There are three rivers but four different lakes — don’t get those confused like this blogger did!)
During the Three-River Throw-Down, the kids participate in five individual tournaments — two on Lake Martin on the Tallapoosa River, one on Lake Eufaula on the Chattahoochee, and one each Lake Jordan and Logan Martin Lake, both on the Coosa River. All teams make sure to get out on the lake the morning before the competition to get in some practice time. They use the skills they’ve learned from their coaches to carefully note any environmental patterns and determine where the biggest fish will be. They figure out their strategies and make sure they’re fully prepared and ready to compete.
Competition days are intense! The kids get out on the lake super early in the morning (In fishing-speak, the official start time is whatever time the officials call “safe daylight” — that’s to say, whenever there’s enough sunlight to safely navigate the water.) Teams are out on the water for the next several hours — they don’t get back until the afternoon, giving them enough time to make some good catches! Then, teams receive their scores. Each team brings their catch to be weighed, and the judges add up the top three individual boat weights to calculate the total team score.
The Journey So Far
Like we said, Benjamin Russell has a track record of success in the Three-River Throw-Down. We’ve actually won the last four years in a row! And this season is shaping up to be just as great.
This season, the kids have already competed in the first of their five tournaments. The first round of the Three-River Throw-Down was on September 10th out on Lake Martin. Thankfully, the weather was nice and mild — not too hot and not too cold! Carson, Grant, and Jackson were out bright and early for their practice fish the day before. Before too long, they realized that the bass were hanging out pretty close to the surface of the water (near the tasty bait fish, of course!). So, they figured a top-water lure that would skim along near the surface would be the best choice. It’s important to note that the lures they decided to use have two treble hooks on them…
Kenny and Carson were up at about 4 AM that day to give them enough time to pick up Grant and meet Jackson by the water. By about 5:30, they were off … and Kenny was off too — back home to catch up on some sleep! Don’t worry though — Jackson made sure to keep him in the loop by text. He even sent the occasional picture when one of the boys made a good catch. And let us tell you — Carson made a really good one!
Midway through the tournament, Carson felt a pretty strong tug on his line — he figured it had to be one of the big three-pounders they were hoping for! He reeled it in, and … remember how we said the lures they chose had two hooks? Well, Carson had managed to catch two fish at the same time! Ha! It was a surprise to be sure, and definitely a story the boys will surely be telling for a long time.
As the day wore on and the competition shifted into the late afternoon, the teams made their way back to shore. While Kenny and the other parents set up the Benjamin Russell tent with pizza and drinks for their tired, hungry anglers to enjoy, the boys brought their catch to be weighed. They caught about 35 fish that day! Unfortunately, however, tournament rules say you can only count your six heaviest fish toward your score. Carson’s and Grant’s catch came in at 6.04 pounds, and their heaviest fish weighed in at 1.38 pounds — not too shabby at all!
While everybody took some time to eat and rest, the tournament officials tallied up the scores and announced the winners. They called out the boats with the top 10 scores, and the top three earned trophies. They also announced the team standings, and the Benjamin Russell team finished in second place, coming in just five points behind Elmore County. What’s more — Carson and Grant came in 38th out of 89 in the individual competition, which is pretty impressive considering they were up against numerous high school teams!
Finally, by about 4 PM — 12 hours after they got up — it was time to head home. Carson and Grant said their goodbyes for the day, then Kenny and Carson journeyed back — Carson asleep most of the way. It was a long day, but a good one — and we already can’t wait for the next tournament!
The (Terra)X Factor
TerraX could not be more proud to be sponsoring the Benjamin Russell team this year. We’re especially looking forward to the next tournament on October 8th because the team will be wearing their new jerseys with our logo for a little bit of that (Terra)X factor! (Don’t they look snazzy?!)
But more than that, we’re excited about this opportunity to invest in our community. As archaeologists, we love anything that gets people outside enjoying nature! The coaches, captains, and ASABFA (That’s the Alabama Student Angler Bass Fishing Association — the people who put on the tournaments!) work hard to teach the kids how to love and respect the environment. They take great care to ensure that the teams have a safe and fun time, all while enjoying the great outdoors.
We’re looking forward to following the team throughout the rest of the Three-River Throw-Down! We’ll be checking in after every tournament and updating all you lovely Xplorers so you can root for the team right alongside us. Keep a lookout for next week’s post, when we’ll share the results from the second tournament on Lake Eufaula.
Until then, get outside and have some fun!
— The TerraX Team