If there’s one thing high school students understand well, it’s homework.
High school bass anglers Nick Marsh and Kyle Boe showed the benefits of preparation and due diligence – i.e. homework – when they teamed up as representatives of Lake Orion High School to win The Bass Federation (TBF) High School Championship on April 21 at Beaver Lake in Arkansas.
Homework is especially important when Michigan anglers compete on the national stage in unfamiliar waters. The combination of new waters and Michigan’s shorter fishing season relative to southern states puts Michigan anglers at a bit of a competitive disadvantage.
Hook N’ Look television host Kim Stricker, a former Bassmasters Elite Series professional angler and 2000 Bassmasters Classic qualifier, concurs. “When I first joined the Elite circuit, veteran pros told me it would take five years to learn all the new types of waters”, said Stricker.
However, much has changed since 2000. Technological advances now make it much easier to prepare for tournaments on unfamiliar waters, dramatically accelerating the learning curve and to some extent, leveling the playing field.
Showing the savvy of seasoned pros, Marsh and Boe prepared for the championship using a combination of technology, research and good old-fashioned networking to develop a game plan.
They started by reviewing records from previous tournaments held during the same time of year to identify historical patterns and locations. Phone calls, emails and texts with local anglers and tackle shops offered more insight into local hot baits. Careful study of online topographical maps was the final piece of the puzzle, confirming graphically what they’d learned through other channels.
Before they wet a line they’d already developed a detailed battle plan and used the practice days to make final adjustments based on local conditions and feedback.
While research and homework are an essential part of a successful tournament, anglers still need to execute on the water and quickly adjust to changes.
And as it turned out, Marsh and Boe’s versatility proved to be the deciding factor when a major cold front passed through the area on the eve of the tournament, throwing their primary game plan out the window.
“We expected to be fishing for spawning bass, but the cold front knocked them off the beds”, said Boe. Recognizing this, Marsh and Boe switched their attention to pre-spawn staging areas of softball-sized chunk rock in 15 – 30 foot depths.
The strategy paid off when they quickly landed a nice limit of spotted bass using downsized plastic swimbaits on exposed hook jig heads. A key factor in coaxing bites from the finicky bass was retrieval speed. Marsh and Boe found a slow retrieve, mixed with occasional short bursts of speed, worked best.
But to put some distance between themselves and their competitors they felt they would need at least one “kicker” largemouth bass. So with a short time remaining in the tournament they switched from jigging deep water spotted bass to casting Alabama rigs to windy, shallow banks with brush.
It turned out to be the right decision when Marsh landed their biggest bass of the day, a three pound largemouth that turned out to be difference maker. Their five bass weighed 10 pounds, 14 ounces -14 ounces better than the second place team from Borah High School, Boise, Idaho.
For their efforts, Marsh and Boe won a $10,000 scholarship ($5,000 each).
The full weight of their accomplishment didn’t immediately sink in until several hours into the long ride back to Michigan when Marsh suddenly turned to Boe and exclaimed; “Dude! We just won the national championship!”
Earning the right to compete for the championship was quite an accomplishment in itself. They got their by first winning the Michigan High School championship held June 24, 2012 on Lake St. Clair, then moving on to beat 12 other state champions in the Central Conference Championship on Carlyle Lake in Illinois on September 8, 2012.
Having passed the first major test, Marsh and Boe are looking forward to taking the next steps in their bass fishing careers. “This definitely puts me on the map”, said Boe.
As for the immediate future, both Marsh and Boe are smart enough to know that although each has aspirations of being a professional bass angler, a college education comes first. Given the seriousness with which they take homework, college should be a piece of cake for both.