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They Came. They Saw. They Threw Down.

Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” rises in the background.

It’s Rocky training for his final fight with Drago in Rocky IV.

It’s Daniel LaRusso getting back up to finish off Johnny in the final round of the tournament in The Karate Kid.

It’s the 1980 US men’s hockey team facing down the Soviets in the Winter Olympics in Miracle.

We all love a good sports movie, right? There’s nothing like the suspense and excitement of watching the team or the hero train and strive and struggle to the end. We love the difficulty of the journey, the anticipation of the final showdown, and the thrill when it’s all over and, hopefully, our heroes have emerged victorious.

Xplorers, we’ve reached the moment we’ve all been waiting for. As many of you know, we’ve been living out our own fantasy sports movie here at TerraX. We’ve watched our heroes Carson and Grant fish their hearts out this season. They’ve weathered injury, early mornings, discouraging prefishes, traveling, and literal weather to get here. It’s been a long journey, and now, it’s coming to an end.

It’s the final round of the Three-River Throwdown.

Memory Montage — The Highs…

Those of you who have been with us on this Dig Deeper special series know that we’ve been following the Benjamin Russell Student Anglers in their fall season tournament series, which is known as the Three-River Throwdown.

Our favorite young fisherman is Carson Pearce, the son of our very own Kenny Pearce. Carson and his teammate, Grant Sheffield, have been sporting fabulous new jerseys decorated with our name and signature trowel logo, and we’ve been proud to sponsor them this season! Together with their captain, Jackson Kelly, coach, Josh Williams, and fellow student anglers from Benjamin Russell, these two have competed in five rounds of tough fishing tournaments.

(Quick reminder — Yes, that’s correct, the fall tournament series is called the Three-River Throwdown and there are five rounds. Two of the four lakes are on the same river, and teams fish one of the lakes twice. Three rivers, four lakes, five rounds — that’s the Three-River Throwdown.)

In round one on Lake Martin, Carson and Grant got off to a strong start. On a nice, mild day, they caught nearly three-dozen fish. They placed about the middle of the pack — which, considering Carson and Grant are two seventh graders competing against high schoolers, is not too shabby at all! It was the perfect way to get their sea, er, lake legs.

For round two on Lake Eufaula, things got a little tougher. The fish were pretty scarce, and all of the teams struggled to make catches. Still, the boys pressed on, and they caught 14.5 pounds of fish that day and finished in second place. It was their best performance of the season!

In the third round on Lake Jordan, the boys gave another strong performance! They came in 6th out of a total of 121 teams participating — truly outstanding. They made some impressively big catches that day, and boy it paid off.

Then, in round four back on Lake Martin, Carson and Grant caught about 40 fish! That’s the most so far, and it was definitely enough to secure a solid score.

And now, we’ve come to the final round — the fifth tournament, this time on Lake Logan Martin.

It’s been a fun ride, folks! Our boys have had a fantastic time on the water this season. They’ve taken in some of the most beautiful natural landscapes in Alabama and witnessed more than a few simply stunning sunrises. They’ve made some truly impressive catches — remember when Carson caught two fish at the same time on a single lure out on Lake Martin? We sure do! And the after-party is always fun, when the parents set up a tent with plenty of food and the kids get to come off the water and relax while they wait for the scores. Tournament days are always a good time!

And the Lows

That’s not to say things have always been easy, though. No… our team has had its share of struggles this season! They’ve had to push through when times got tough — and they have indeed been tough.

Remember when Carson broke his foot the night before he and Grant were supposed to fish Lake Eufaula? Poor Angie, Carson’s mom and Kenny’s wife, had to take him to urgent care to get x-rays, and when the doctor placed a boot on him, we weren’t sure he was going to make it to the tournament at all. Of course, Carson never doubted for a second — he wasn’t going to let anything so tiny as a broken foot keep him from competing! And with such a great teammate as Grant and a fabulous captain like Jackson willing to do all the prep work on the boat so that Carson could get a little extra sleep before the competition, the team hardly missed a beat.

Also, can we talk about the weather for just a minute? The weather the day of that first tournament was beautiful — if only it had set the tone for the whole season! Since then, our anglers have faced brutal cold and chilling rain, and those things don’t just affect the fishermen; they affect the fish, too. When the weather is bad, sometimes the fish can be hard to find, and Carson and Grant missed out on some of the bigger fish who might have been hanging around near the docks on Lake Martin had it not started raining.

And those early mornings, y’all — we love a sunrise as much as the next person, but 3:00 AM on a Saturday is EARLY. Don’t forget, either, that the kids aren’t the only ones who have to be up that early. You have coaches, captains, parents, and tournament officials — all of whom are volunteering their time and energy — up at those crazy hours too.

Nope, the fishing season is not easy at all, but it is rewarding. It takes a lot of hard work to get out on the lake at all, let alone be successful, but we love it just the same. In fact, we might even love fishing because of all the work it takes. Putting in all that effort — it makes the victory so much sweeter.

But did the team come to victory in their final round?

You Know the Drill — It’s Time for the Prefish

As the final round approached, the boys started planning for their prefish. Unfortunately, Carson once again had too many tests to take at school, so he couldn’t make it to Lake Logan Martin until tournament day. The good news is, Grant, his dad, Doug, and Jackson were able to take the boat out and see what they could find.

They didn’t find much. The bass were scarce that day! During their prefish, the team worked with a device called a Fish Finder. Put as simply as possible (because we don’t totally understand how they work either), a Fish Finder sends out soundwaves into the water, and when those sound waves reflect back, they show up as different frequencies depending on what they bounced off of. When they bounce off bass, they show up on the little graph read-out as one color, they show up as another color for little balls of shad or bait fish, and so on. Different color blobs mean different kinds of fish!

The funny thing was, on this particular Friday, the fish were spread out all over everywhere. Our group kept seeing little balls of these bait fish — which usually indicate that hungry bass are probably nearby — moving up and down in the water. Doug said that the screen looked like a lava lamp all day with those little blobs moving back and forth! Unfortunately, though, the bass simply weren’t following. There were very few to be found! The team only caught about a dozen or so fish during the prefish — not quite enough to inspire confidence for the real tournament.

The Final Round

The day of the tournament dawned bright and beautiful.

Way before that, though, Carson, Grant, and the team made their way down to Lake Logan Martin.

Kenny, Angie, and Doug helped get the boys set up and ready to go and saw them safely off onto the water. Then, he and Angie left to do a little Christmas shopping — it was the perfect opportunity!

Out on the water, things pretty much went about how they expected after the prefish… which is to say, it was a struggle. The boys kept their eyes on the Fish Finder, and they kept casting out every time they saw a ball of bait fish, but either the bass just weren’t out that day or they weren’t in the mood to bite. Despite the relatively nice weather, they simply could not find any pattern to follow, and the team had to fight to catch their allotted six fish. At the end of the tournament, they had caught a grand total of nine fish.

Still, weigh-in time came as it always does, and Carson and Grant brought their catch in for weighing and scoring.

It was the moment of truth. Was it enough? Our boys had come so far this season — would they prevail?

The Scores

Alright alright, folks, the suspense is over — Carson Pearce and Grant Sheffield came in 22 out of 87! They did PHENOMENALLY well, especially for two middle school students competing at such a high level! They came into this tournament as little fish in a big pond, but they’re leaving as some of the biggest fish out there!

Despite those crazy fish being all but absent the day of the tournament, our team managed to bring in 8.67 pounds of them, including one fish that weighed 1.89 pounds all by itself. Not too shabby at all!

And as for the Benjamin Russell team, like our boys, they felt the struggle in this round, but guess what. Who cares?! The Benjamin Russell Student Anglers still came out with enough points to win the overall tournament.

That’s right! You are looking at the five-time Three-River Throwdown-winning team, folks!

These kids fought for success, and they came out on top. Truly, we could not be more proud of our performance this season. Three cheers for the Benjamin Russell Student Anglers! Hip hip, hooray! Hip hip, hooray! Hip hip, hooray!

Looking Ahead at What’s to Come

With their AMAZING performance this season, Carson and Grant have a lot to be proud of, but they’re not ready to call it quits yet. No sir, they’re already looking ahead to the spring.

Because of the fantastic job they did in the Three-River Throwdown — they were the top middle school team, after all — Carson and Grant have secured their spot on Benjamin Russell’s middle school team for the spring tournament. Now remember — that’s a big deal because in the spring, the middle scholar and high schoolers compete separately in the junior and senior leagues, and the winning team from each league wins the state championship trop