Carey, Kauffman carry lead into final day of National Championship at Hartwell - Major League Fishing
Carey, Kauffman carry lead into final day of National Championship at Hartwell
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Carey, Kauffman carry lead into final day of National Championship at Hartwell

Image for Carey, Kauffman carry lead into final day of National Championship at Hartwell
Josh Kauffman and Trent Carey maintained their lead on Day 2 of the Abu Garcia High School Fishing National Championship.
June 20, 2024 • Justin Onslow • High School Fishing

ANDERSON, S.C. — While it’s true that someone has to win any given tournament, it’s hard to go into the Abu Garcia High School Fishing National Championship with a 437-boat field and feel like you’re going to be that winning team. For Josh Kauffman and Trent Carey, though, that’s very much a realistic possibility after two terrific days on Lake Hartwell.

The Pennsylvania duo weighed in a three-fish limit of 12 pounds, 2 ounces on Wednesday and followed that up with 8-10 on Thursday to hold a slim 13-ounce margin over the Lanier High School team of Bryson Dover and Angel Cornejo heading into the final day of competition. Despite initially leading after Day 1, a clerical error in the registration process due to the overlapping TBF Student Angler Federation World Finals overlooked one larger bag from the Shelby County High School team of Mason Carden and Morgan Carden (12-8). However, Kauffman and Carey were able to assume the lead once again with their stellar Day 2 and are in prime position to finish the job on Friday.

“Going into tomorrow, we feel good with the idea that we’re go out first, boat No. 1,” Kauffman said. “We get to pick any spot on the lake we want to run and, really, here, capitalizing on that morning bite has been big. You’ve got to get them early, and if you don’t, it is a grind. With us going out early and picking our first areas we want to go, we feel good. We feel like if it goes right, we have the spots.”

Kauffman and Carey fished the World Finals on Hartwell a few years ago and have been coming back periodically ever since, so they have a wealth of waypoints and experience on the fishery. As such, they’ve been able to replicate their pattern from Day 1 by running offshore brushpiles by the dozens.

“It was entirely the same program today,” Carey said. “It’s just all about running as many places as we can and finding some active fish. When we run across them, we can generally get them to bite if they’re up high. It was the same program, but it was a lot more fish spread out today.”

As for techniques and baits, the duo didn’t want to get into too much detail with another day left to fish, but they did say their success can be attributed more to timing and presentation than actual baits.

“We’re throwing traditional herring-style baits,” Kauffman said. “Sebiles, swimbaits, spoons – stuff like that to get them to chase and feed. It’s not so much the bait as it is the spot and the timing. When you do find them actively feeding, you can throw just about anything in there and they’ll hit it. You just have to make the right cast to the right spot.”

The other key to picking off the right fish – which included two keeper spots and four keeper largemouth over two days – and weeding through hundreds of waypoints has been focusing on larger schools rather than small three-or-four-fish packs or roamers.

“If there’s less than probably 10 in a group, the solos out here aren’t catchable in our eyes, so we’re just running trying to find as many groups as we can,” Carey said. “The groups of three and four just aren’t working for us.”

With prior experience and sustained success this week on their side, Kauffman and Carey find themselves in a position they didn’t expect to be at this point in the tournament. Now, it’s just a matter of squeezing the last of the juice out of their offshore brushpile pattern and seeing what happens.

“It’s an indescribable feeling,” Carey said. “Going into the tournament, you’re like, alright somebody’s gotta do it; why not us? But you never think it’s going to be you. Just to be here and have this opportunity where we’re the ones going out with the lead, we’re the ones who are there to be beat, it’s just something hard to describe. It’s the feeling you always chase.”