‘‘The 7-pounder was the last fish of the day, and he hit right when the bite started to die down,’’ Scott Springer said in an email exchange. ‘‘Right when I hooked into it and I felt him surge once, I knew this was the fish we needed! Once we landed it, we were in disbelief.’’
That largemouth bass put the finishing touches on a victory last Sunday for Springer and Trust Say.
‘‘It was very unexpected because the day was coming to an end,’’ Say emailed. ‘‘Not only was the 7-pounder our kicker, but it was also the last fish of the day.’’
The 17-year-olds from Bolingbrook used that bass to win the 241-team Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Central Open on Toledo Bend Reservoir between Louisiana and Texas.
The top 24 teams advanced to the high school national championship tournament, which will be held at an undisclosed location later this year.
High school bass fishing has grown to that level.
And to the level where the top prize included $2,000 for their fishing team and an offer of a combined $20,000 scholarship to compete with the fishing team at McKendree University, located downstate near St. Louis.
Neither Springer nor Say has set college plans, but they said the $10,000 scholarship offer each will have them checking out McKendree.
Their high schools did not offer bass fishing, so Springer, Say and Tyler Christy formed the Christy, Springer and Say Community Club. Springer started at Bolingbrook his freshman year, then transferred to Plainfield East, where he is a senior. Say is a senior at Bolingbrook.
Christy fished with Tyler Lubbat, who led Buffalo Grove to the Illinois High School Association championship in June. Lubbat and Christy finished seventh and also advanced to the national championship.
Christy’s dad, Scott Christy, was the boat captain for Springer and Say, who gave him ‘‘a shoutout.’’’
Got all that?
Back to fishing. Neither Springer nor Say had seen Toledo Bend before the Wednesday before the event, when practicing began. But they put a strong pattern together.
That paid off Sunday.
They had six pounds in the morning, then went to a main-lake point they found during practice. Wind had stacked bait on the point. They began throwing A-rigs and added 15 pounds quickly.
They thought they had only about 19 pounds and ‘‘were so surprised when the scale read 21 pounds, 7 ounces!’’
Both favor power fishing, bigger and faster baits for covering lots of water. So when they put an A-Rig pattern together, it was right up [their] alley.
Adjusting is the key.
‘‘I started fishing at a very young age; I don’t remember a time before it!’’ Springer emailed. ‘‘My dad [the late Lee Springer] was the one who got me into fishing, and it was my freshman year of high school that my passion for the sport and desire to become better exploded. By the next year, I had entered into my first tournament, and I haven’t stopped trying to improve since.’’
‘‘I started fishing at the age of 3,’’ Say emailed. ‘‘My grandpa [Sombath Chouch] got me into fishing and started taking me out every day after school. As many years passed by, I realized by freshman year I wanted to take fishing to a higher level.’’
High school fishing is there.