Updated: Aug 25
A sharp piercing sound from the acoustic backfeed of a microphone echoes across the docks. Nervous fishermen of all ages huddle with their teams in anticipation as a man with a classic southern accent announces into the microphone, “Alright, we have results!” First is 5th place, then 4th place, 3rd, 2nd, and finally, “With a three fish limit,” (the microphone squeals once again as if in eager excitement) “with a 17.04 (weigh-in),” the announcer emphasizes, “Again, 17.04 lbs, 3 fish limit. Your Classic Junior ASABFA Champions from Benjamin Russell …” (Safe to say, the audience was HOOKED!) “Welcome Grant Sheffield and Carson Pierce!” And the crowd goes wild! “Yeah!” The announcer shouts. “What a bag of fish!” he proclaims wholeheartedly.
Yup that’s right, sports fans! Our boys, Grant and Carson, are the 2023 ASABFA Classics Champions! Can you believe it? (We sure could!) These boys are certainly breaking records for themselves and their team. “I felt amazing!” said Carson Pearce, Kenny Pearce’s son and ASABFA champion. “Especially with a 17.04 pound bag.” And with the energy of a kid in the candy store Kenny Pearce was over the moon and could not wait to share the news. “The boys caught fish a little over 17 pounds!” says Kenny. (For context: Those are Monsters!) And Kenny agrees! “Everyone was very excited,” he says. The entire family and team was on cloud 9.
Faith in their (Over)Confidence
Getting to this point was no easy feat. Carson told us, “Our biggest strength is bringing in big bags,” while Grant tells us it is simply their “determination to be the best every time we go out on the water.” Something most certainly instilled from their coach, and Grant’s father, Doug Sheffeild. “I don't get it, why would you put on a jersey if you're not in it to win it?” says Doug with a laugh.
It’s safe to say, the boys find their strengths in each other. “[Grant] is funny, and he never gives up,” says Carson, and “[Carson] keeps us laughing on the water,” says Grant, adding, “which can help on tough days.” As much as they support each other, the boys say their favorite part about fishing is simply “catching monsters and bringing in big bags,” says Carson, not to mention “the adrenaline rush you get from catching a fish!” adds Grant. Being 14 pnts behind going into the championship, the fishing dads Kenny and Doug were a little nervous themselves, but they had faith in their boys’ “overconfidence,” and confidence in the boys’ captain, Jackson Kelly, as well.
O’ Captain My Captain
“The boys deserve credit for their skills, but Jackson Kelly deserves some of that credit for all that he taught them,” says Doug. (Let’s give it up for Jackson Kelly, Carson and Grant’s captain of two years!) As the adulting advisor to the junior fishermen (for the purpose of safety and strategy), Jackson has a lifelong history of fishing in middle school and high school, and even still, he participates in his own upper level tournaments at the Central Alabama Community College.
“He could catch a darn bass in a mudhole!” Doug says in admiration about Jackson, thinking back two years ago when they first snagged their fearless leader. “It was sheer luck that we got Jackson. With our lack of knowledge (referring to himself and his fellow dad, Kenny), we are blessed to have a captain who knows what he’s doing.”
With Jackson coaching the boys, Doug claims to see major improvement to the boys’ skills (that of which led them to become champions in 2023!) “See, at a wedding,” Doug says in colorful comparison, “It’s like trying to pull off a dance they don’t know or can't do.” “Last year,” Doug simplifies, “Captain Jackson was finding only fish that they could catch versus just finding the fish. This year,” Doug continues, “they are way better fishermen and can fish any technique out there! Whatever the fish are doing is what the boys can do. Their skill level has risen to the point where anything is on the table.” Overall, Doug says, “(Jackson) is good with the kids, and they are leaps and bounds ahead of us — they show me stuff all the time.” Doug adds, “Sure does help me sleep well at night!”
In addition, Doug appreciates Jackson’s competitiveness. “I couldn't be happier because he's as competitive as I am. He likes to win! He's not out there fishing for fun. And by god, that's what I believe in too!” Jackson is usually not one to accept second place as a win. “He’s a very serious competitor,” says Doug, “acting a little like Igor, even in second place,” he joked. But on the day of the big catch, even Jackson couldn't contain his excitement.
One Fateful Call, One Big Catch
“It was one of the better fishing days that they have had,” says Kenny about the big day. “It was one of the first tournaments in which weather was not a factor; very hot, but consistent.” The boys told us they had mixed emotions before the tournament. “After a good day of pre-fishing, I felt excited for the tournament!” says Carson, “but if we had a bad day, then I would be nervous.” Well, the boys deemed it a good pre-fish day — if you consider a 7-foot alligator a good catch! (Catching dinosaurs in the open waters of Alabama, just normal things for these guys.) “It’s got a bit too many teeth for a bass,” one of the boys told Doug after having not much luck catching a line himself. With a 7-foot gator in their bag (just a figure of speech, they released the big guy), Grant was nervous and excited saying, “I knew we had a chance to put together a good bag.” (And boy did they!)
On the day of the tournament, once the boys were officially out on the water and doing what they do best, Doug asked a fellow fishing dad to join him on his boat to get a look at the lake for themselves. A safe distance from the boys, down south, the dads spotted Carson and Grant on their boat. That was when Doug got the first call. “Captain Jackson had called to tell us they caught two fish for 4 lbs but nothing truly decent just yet.” However, as the day wore on, the boys soon found themselves in pretty good shape with one five-pounder and one six-pounder. (Those are some BIG fish!)
Even though they knew they didn't have it locked up quite yet, the SS Carson and Grant was sitting pretty. “I could hear Carson in the background saying, ‘We in good shape! Just have to catch a big one,’” says Doug. It was then that Carson had a grand risk it all kind of idea. Over the phone, Doug could hear Carson saying “I've never caught a fish on a jig (A type of weighted fishing lure that jumps like a fish), but I’m gonna catch a 5 pounder!” Doug and his fellow dad laughed to themselves, knowing Carson’s chances. “Gotta love the confidence,” Doug said to his fellow dad. Doug hung up the phone, but not before he heard Carson say, “Yeup, alright what do I do with this thing?” (We believe in you Carson!)
Meanwhile, the dads went fishing for themselves (catching zip, by the way). Not moments later, “Jackson called me laughing,” Doug told us, “and I thought he was crying — I thought something was wrong!” Seemingly out of breath, Jackson told Doug, “We’re done, we’re done! We caught a 6-lbs fish, we are done, it’s over!” Doug could not believe what he was hearing, nor could he believe Jackson’s reaction. “Jackson is normally a calm individual — you never hear him excited.” In that moment, Doug says, “I don't even have the words to describe his reaction. He turned the competition off.” Doug went on, “He got off the gas and tapped the brake. I've never seen (Jackson) so happy, and I was honestly shocked to see that side of him — finally happy and satisfied. We just don't have a word other than elated,” say Doug and Kenny.
This was a record for the boys. In fact, it was a personal best for Carson! (Keep in mind, Carson had never caught a fish on this kind of lure before.) “It was the last big fish,” says Doug. The SS Carson and Grant now had two 6-lbs fish and one 5-lbs fish, with a total of 17.04 lbs in the boat! “It was the biggest fish for the whole tournament,” says Kenny. “If we bragging, might as well brag,” adds Doug. Even the boys’ smallest fish weighed in bigger than second place. “They could have thrown the lunker (AKA, a big fish in a tournament) back and won first place with the first two fish.” Carson’s catch was so big they had to put fin clips for weight on the fins to reorient the fish so the big guy didn't get vertigo. “It’s like when a diver comes up too fast.” Doug explains, “You gotta love on those fish so they live back in the water.” says Doug.
And the Winners are…
As excited as everyone was (Kenny raced back to the tournament to see his boy take first as soon as he could get away from work), it wasn't until they walked up to the scale that the win could become official. “Look at these fools, thinking they won.” says Doug, assuming their competitors' thoughts. However, after the big announcement, Grant says, “I was excited because me and Carson have come real close to winning before, and then we finally did in the biggest tournament of the year!” “It was their time,” says Doug. In fact, “We won everything that could be won that day.” Doug continues, “Carson won biggest fish, the boys won the tournament, the state championships — one of our teammates even won the raffle for an electronic prize. Heck, we won everything but the lottery that day! We were a team that had it in the bag” (Literally! And it doesn't stop there!) In the coming days, a banquet will be held for the Benjamin Russell High School, and the boys and their team are also expected to be presented with Angler of the Year as well as Biggest Fish of the Year for the middle school teams. “I can show you the math!” says Doug, emphasizing that Benjamin Russell definitely earned the most points.
In the end, “It’s not mine and Kenny’s fault,” says Doug, clarifying, “their success is not our fault.” It takes “hard work and dedication,” says Carson. “After prefishing from 6:00 AM to 3:00 PM it gets tiring, but it gives you motivation to push harder that next day.” (We couldn't agree more.) “I think the biggest thing for us,” says Grant, “is having an open mind all day no matter if we are struggling or doing well. We have had success at the last minute a couple of times this year, and that has helped the middle school team as a whole be in the top spot at the end of the year.”
The Boys Know How to Compete
To quote a hard rock band from the late 70s, our boys rose “straight to the top,” they “had the guts” and they “got the glory.” In our own words, they kicked butt and caught fish, and we couldn't be more proud! “These boys know how to compete. They are not scared of competition,” says Doug. For the coming future, Carson says he plans to fish in college; however, “if it doesn't work out, I am also going to college as an engineer.” (We support all your endeavors Carson!) And for Grant's upcoming future he says, “I do plan on fishing in high school and college. Also I would love to fulfill my dream of fishing in the professional circuit one day.”
Congratulations to our boys — we are so glad to have been able to follow your journey to the top. As we continue to congratulate our champs (over and over and over again), we recommend going back and catching up on how our boys fished in the previous tournaments this year in and how they made their way to the championships in Cold with a Lure in the Water. You can also take it all the way back to the beginning to see how it all started in our very first tournament post, Gone Fishing!
As a reminder, you can check out this year’s scores at ASABFA.com, check out the entire tournament on their youtube page @asabfa5975, or watch our boys the moment they became champions at the Lake Eufala ASABFA Jr. Classical ceremonies. Be sure to keep following us on all our socials including Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, and we will keep you hooked on all the best TerraX stories! And don’t forget, the TerraX Sports Center will be back this fall, following the boys for another Three-River Throwdown. Until next time!