Austin Wyatt, a 2017 graduate from Gladeville, and Mekiah Jack, a junior from Mt. Juliet, will compete this week in the YETI FLW College Fishing National Championship on Wheeler Lake in Florence, Ala.
The tournament, which runs from Wednesday through Saturday, pits 148 college bass fishing clubs against each other for $30,000 in prizes, including a new Ranger Z175 boat and entry into the world bass fishing championship, the 2017 Forrest Wood Cup.
Tennessee lakes that Wyatt has fished include Percy Priest, which is about 10 minutes from his home, and Old Hickory, which is about 25 minutes away, as well as Chickamauga, Nickajack and Pickwick. He said competitors are given time to get used to each lake before tournaments begin in earnest.
“We usually try to get there two to three days beforehand, get out on as much of the lake as possible and use our depth finders,” said Wyatt.
Both Wyatt and Jack agree competitive fishing involves much more than just rods, reels and lures. In addition to the depths, the entrants carefully check the weather and water clarity.
“I go on Google Earth and get a look at the lakes from that point of view,” Jack said.
The Blue Raider Bass Anglers was created in 2008. Members such as Wyatt and Jack use their own boats and equipment. Most, including Wyatt and Jack, began fishing when they were children.
“Growing up, I always fished,” said Jack, who said he began competitive fishing while a junior in high school. “My dad got me into it at a very young age.”
“I’ve grown up fishing my whole life,” Wyatt said. “When someone asked me if I wanted to compete, I said, ‘Heck, yeah. I might as well do it.’”
While not exactly a relaxing way to spend time on the water, both anglers enjoy competitive fishing as well as recreational fishing.
“Sometimes it’s more like a job than fun, but we still have fun,” said Wyatt.
“I guess it depends on the person,” Jack added. “I’ve always been super competitive, but most guys in these tournaments are.”
Entrants in the national tournament will work in two-person teams. Members of the winning team will compete in a one-day fish-off Saturday on neighboring Wilson Lake. The angler with the largest one-day stringer will advance to the world championship and a chance to win $300,000.
For more information about the national tournament, visit flwfishing.com. Follow the Blue Raider Bass Anglers on Instagram @mtsubassanglers.