Southwestern High School students Colton Smith and Brenton Clemons had two big motivations to make the 14-hour drive from Somerset, Ky., to Clewiston, Fla., this past week. The first was that they had an opportunity to escape the generally miserable, snowy weather that had gripped Kentucky. The second was that they were more than excited to have the chance to qualify for the TBF/FLW Southern Conference Regional event that will take place this fall.
As it turned out, they were rewarded for their efforts.
During the Feb. 9 Florida Open on the Caloosatchee River just off of Lake Okeechobee in south central Florida, Smith and Clemons put it all together, winning the inaugural Florida High School Open with a five-bass limit weighing in at 12 pounds, 6 ounces.
“This river is very different from our home lake in Kentucky,” said Smith, who estimated that his team landed approximately 20 fish throughout the day. “In the morning we found some schooling fish that we threw crankbaits at and then slowed down in the afternoon and started flipping worms around some of the canals and small ponds that are just off of the main river.”
“Our lake is very deep and rocky and this river has a little of everything in it from weeds to piers and docks and a lot of vegetation,” added Clemons. “We just tried to find areas that we were used to fishing and fish to our strengths.”
Travis Conrad and Hunter Tinsley from Riverdale High School, claimed the runner-up position after turning in a five- fish limit weighing 11 pounds, 2 ounces. Rounding out the top three was the team of Shane Hines and Hunter Gadd from Bartow High School who turned in a respectable catch of 9 pounds, 15 ounces. The Bartow team was operating on a limited amount of sleep as their four-team contingent had fished another event on Saturday before turning around at 3:00am to make the trip to the Alvin Ward Park in Moore Haven for Sunday’s event.
The top three teams from this event were then recognized at the FLW Tour event in Clewiston just before the start of the Walmart FLW Tour weigh-in. All three teams have also qualified for the TBF/FLW Southern Conference Regional event, scheduled to take place this fall.
The TBF/FLW Open event series continues on March 8 and 9 at Lake Russell with the “Anderson Open” in Anderson, S.C. TBF/FLW Open events are available to all High School students who register and join the SAF.
For more information or to register, go to highschoolfishing.org and click on the yellow box that says State Championship. Simply scroll down to the state and open event you’d like to enter and click on “registration.”
Next up for the winners will be the Kentucky SAF State Championship in March at their home lake (Lake Cumberland) in Somerset, Ky. Florida teams will be gearing up for the Florida SAF State Championship at Kissimmee City Park and Lake Toho on March 1 and 2.