By the time the scale settled, it wasn’t even close. The Mabank (Texas) High School team of Dakota Pfoh and Justin Shelton dominated the TBF/FLW High School Fishing National Championship on Wheeler Lake with a five-bass limit worth 17 pounds, 7 ounces. Their weight was greater than any limit weighed in by the YETI FLW College Fishing National Championship teams that fished Wheeler for three days prior to the high school event.
The next closest team was Nick Cora and Cole Thompson of Harmony High School in Florida with 9-5, followed by Lawrenceburg (Indiana) High School anglers Hunter Schneider and William Halbig with 7-13. Pfoh and Shelton earned a $10,000 scholarship for the victory.
The key to Mabank’s win was one key area on the main lake of Wheeler that was loaded with bait. They camped on the spot all day long.
“We found one place in practice and kind of left it alone,” says Shelton. “We went in there today and wore ’em out.”
The spot was located near some large barge tie-offs. A ledge sloped up to a shell bed that was about 5 feet deep on top. Above the shell bed was a 2-foot-deep island. Pfoh and Shelton positioned above the shell bed and cast out, dragging jigs back up the slope. They also circled the island, which produced a key fish but also gave the shell bed time to replenish. Each time they fished through the main spot again produced another keeper.
Their jigs were either black and blue or green pumpkin and rigged with matching Strike King Rage Craw trailers.
While the jig bite was key, according to Pfoh the team also caught a couple of fish on a Strike King 5XD crankbait and a Bass Pro Shops Speed Shad swimbait Texas-rigged with a screw-in weight, which they worked through some grass.
Both anglers graduated in 2016 – the year they qualified for this championship. Shelton is attending community college and working, while focusing on his fishing. Pfoh is angling for a fishing career as well. Both hope to land on a YETI FLW College Fishing club somewhere.
“I’m emotional right now because this [tournament fishing] has been a lifelong dream,” Pfoh says. “I want to one day fish the Classic and win the Classic. Or I want to win the Cup.
“We’re just fishing and trying to make it.”
Harmony High takes second
The runners up from Harmony High School, which is located in St. Cloud, Fla., also relied primarily on one key area that they found in practice. The tournament day just didn’t turn out quite as well as Cole Thompson and Nick Cora anticipated, and they finished with 9 pounds, 5 ounces.
“We were confident because we had a pretty decent practice, but today was a lot tougher,” says Thompson. “We just didn’t get any big bites.”
Cora attributed the change in productivity to the heat, lack of current and pressure from the college tournament that took place Wednesday through Friday.
“We fished a grass flat in about 10 feet of water,” says Cora.
The flat connected an island to the main channel of a large creek. Hydrilla sweetened the spot.
Lawrenceburg rounds out the top three
Hunter Schneider and William Halbig of Lawrenceburg (Indiana) High School finished third with a 7-pound, 13-ounce limit.
Despite five days of practice, the Tigers didn’t feel like they had much of a plan coming into tournament day.
“Practice didn’t really go as planned,” says Schneider. “We were looking out deep but couldn’t find anything. We fish shallow back home, so we figured we might as well do what we know.”
In the tournament, Schneider and Halbig keyed on an area that was about 10 feet deep on a steep-falling bank, as well as some docks.
Drummond gets his diploma
Cole Drummond of the South Florence (South Carolina) Bruins didn’t walk away with a first-place trophy at the championship, but he did walk away with some recognition for another major accomplishment. FLW Weighmaster Chris Jones presented Drummond with his high school diploma on stage. The young man missed his high school graduation ceremony to fish the championship, and his principal mailed the diploma to FLW so Drummond could receive it on graduation day.
Drummond and partner Piercen Lynch caught 7 pounds, 4 ounces to tie for fourth. The new grad plans to start a business manufacturing and selling small creek boats for anglers who fish rivers and other small fisheries in his region.
1. Justin Shelton & Dakota Pfoh – Mabank High School – 17-7 (5) – $10,000.00
2. Nick Cora & Cole Thompson – Harmony High School – 9-5 (5)
3. Hunter Schneider & William Halbig – Lawrenceburg Tigers – 7-13 (5)
4. Cole Drummond & Piercen Lynch – South Florence Bruins – 7-4 (5)
5. Aaron Stephens & Parker Davis – Mortimer Jordan Blue Devils – 7-4 (5)
6. Nathan Cummings & Taj White – Phoenix High School Bassmasters – 7-4 (3)
7. Noah Metzger & Marcus Davis – Corbin High School Redhounds – 7-0 (5)
8. Alexandre Lawliss & Perry Marvin – Peru Senior High School – 3-14 (3)
9. Steven Mills & Daniel Cheshire – Creek Wood – 3-8 (2)
10. Colby Robinson & Nick Nocilla – Barbe High School – 3-1 (4)
11. Nathan Lorenz & Colin Steck – Waunakee Warriors – 2-1 (1)
12. Ty Whisenhunt & Hunter Bissell – Mount Ida Jr Bass Hookers – 1-9 (1)
13. Ryan Mozisek & Josh Gray – Benton High School – 0-00
High School Fishing returning to north Alabama
Today’s championship event featured the top anglers from the 2016 Conference Championship events. An additional High School Fishing National Championship will be held June 27-July 1 on Pickwick Lake for teams that qualified during the 2017 season. Going forward, a yearly championship will be held following the preceding school year.