BHS Basscats qualify for national fishing tournament

Published 4:45 pm Tuesday, June 20, 2023

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The Bainbridge High School Basscats spent the weekend on the Harris Chain, a chain of lakes in Leesburg, FL, in an attempt to catch the heaviest fish. 


Two pairs of anglers from the Basscats are headed to the national competition after finishing well over the weekend. Freshman Hayden Reynolds, one of the anglers that qualified for nationals, said he knew he had something special after the first day of competition.

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“When we got back to the house we were staying at, I was like, ‘We got a chance at this thing tomorrow,’” said freshman Hayden Reynolds. “We got to put our head down, and we’ve got to do something.”


The teams competed in the Florida BASS Nation state championship. Reynolds said they compete in the Florida competitions because those lakes are similar to Lake Seminole in Bainbridge. Over Saturday and Sunday, the two-person teams fished and kept their five biggest fish each day to come up with a two-day total.  


Seniors Brock Lewis and Gage Sellars finished the weekend with 23.66 lbs caught. Hayden Reynolds and Caleb Logue bagged 35.00 lbs of fish. 35lbs of fish gave Reynolds and Logue a 5th-place finish. 


Reynolds said he and Logue drove down to the lakes a week before the tournament to practice and find good fishing spots. The pair spent the week scouting out the lake, and Reynolds said they felt prepared to go into Saturday’s competition.


“Every day, if we didn’t find a school of fish, we were putting pieces of the puzzle together,” Reynolds said. “It was Thursday, and we told ourselves, ‘Let’s go fish on these brush piles.’ We got down on some brush piles, and it was automatic.”


The first day started slow for Reynolds and Logue. The spots they were at weren’t producing as they did during the week, according to Reynolds. He said that the day turned around when he noticed a unique group of pencil reed plants.


“We pulled up to a line full of pencil reed heads, and it was kind of a deeper wall,” Reynolds said. “We noticed that the rest of the pencil reeds were in, like, a shallow flat, and this one was on a deep, deep bank. When you’re fishing, you got to pick out that stuff. You’ve got to find the stuff that’s just slightly different than others to go fishing.”


The line of pencil reeds was a spot they had practiced at on Thursday. Within 15 minutes, the pair caught more than 10 pounds of fish. After those catches, Reynolds said it hit him that they could have a shot at placing high in the tournament. 


According to Reynolds, areas abundant in foliage, such as the deep pencil reed line, are where the big fish tend to be. The anglers “flip” for the fish amidst the grassy water. Flipping, also known as “punching,” is performed by casting a hook into the grassy area, bouncing it up and down a few times, then casting it into another section. Reynolds said flipping is how they catch their best fish.


The rest of the day went by, and Reynolds’ team had over 17 lbs of fish at weigh-in. That put them in 9th place, less than four pounds from first place. The guys returned to where they were staying and regrouped for the next tournament day. 


Reynolds said he woke up Sunday morning “surprisingly calm.” That quickly changed as the morning of fishing wasn’t going the team’s way. He said after an hour, the team had five fish that weighed just over six pounds.


“That’s not gonna cut it at all,” Reynolds said. “I was worried because having six pounds at 10:30 in the morning? Dude, I was like, ‘There’s no way we had what we had yesterday and come in today with six pounds.’”


By 11 a.m., the team had tried all of the spots that had been successful up until then and were unsuccessful in catching anything substantial. Reynolds said they revisited a site they were confident in and hunkered down. He said the plan was to “pick it apart” and see if they could get anything out of it. Soon after, they did.


“Caleb reels down, sets the hook, dude, he lays into this fish,” Reynolds said. “That fish looks like it’s about to take him in the lake.”


After a short battle, Reynolds got the fish in the net and pulled it into the boat. The fish came in at over six and a half pounds, nearly doubling the combined weight of the five fish they caught that day. Reynolds said bagging that fish changed the entire day.


“It boosted so much morale and made the whole difference for the day,” Reynolds said. “That’s what I love about fishing. You catch one fish, and boom, you’re right in it.”


They were “right in it,” catching another 4+ pounder 20 minutes after. That was a short-lived success, as they didn’t catch anything significant the rest of the day.  Reynolds said they caught 25 fish on Sunday, but the two they caught when they hunkered down were the only notable catches. 


They ended the day with more than 17 lbs caught. Their two-day total was 35 lbs, securing a top-five finish on the weekend. Reynolds said he’s grateful for how well he did at the tournament.


“I wouldn’t be here without the Lord,” Reynolds said. “He has allowed me to catch the fish that me and Caleb caught. He has allowed us to have our boat run. He has allowed us to put ourselves in the position that we’ve been put in, … I thank him every day for that.”


Reynolds and Logue, along with other Basscats Brock Lewis and Gage Sellars, will travel to Lake Hartwell in Anderson, SC, for the BASS Nation Championship. 


“Yes, I am a freshman. Yes, I am going to Nationals. Yes, I did just get a top-five at the state level against some absolute hammers in Florida. Would I consider myself the best? No,” Reynolds said. “Would I consider myself able to compete? Yes. I feel like everywhere I go, I can compete.”