The Bassmasters Classic is to sport fishing what the World Series is to baseball and the Super Bowl is to football. Roughly four years ago, the elite bass fishing tournament series expanded to include a division aimed at colleges. Now for the first time, this year also included high school teams.
While our nation’s top professional anglers competed on Alabama’s Lake Guntersville, 10 high school teams from across the United States took part in the youth event held on neighboring Lay Lake.
Pros and youth alike qualify for the pinnacle of bass fishing by winning a series of qualifying tournaments in their region. For the most part, southern anglers predominately dominate these events. With good reason. The southern states have more lakes, longer fishing seasons and bass fishing is a way of life. But this year, Indiana had a strong showing in the youth event, both on the water and behind the scenes.
Lafayette’s Beau Ashcraft is a three-sport athlete at McCutcheon High School. The 15-year-old competes in tennis, wrestling and golf. But his biggest thrill did not take place in the gym or court, but on the stage of Alabama’s Birmingham Convention Center.
Nearly 20,000 fans of professional bass fishing came together to watch as Ashcraft and teammate Shawn Zellers of Winamac carried their fish to the scales in the inaugural Bassmaster High School Classic. Their catch of four spotted bass totaling just under 12 pounds was good enough to earn them a fourth-place finish.
The pair qualified for the event by placing fourth in the BASS High School Invitational last year at Lake Wheeler in Alabama, where they competed against 64 other high school teams from across the United States. From there, only 10 teams earned the opportunity to take part in the Classic contest. The boys are teammates in the Wabash Valley Bassmasters, a high school fishing club made up of youth from the Lafayette and Winamac areas.