DCA bass fishing team places 9th at national tournament in Alabama

For the fourth-straight year, Danville Christian Academy sent anglers to the Student Angler Federation high school world final — the largest high school bass fishing tournament in the country.

A whopping 384 boats started the event, held at Pickwick Lake in Florence, Alabama. DCA’s Caleb Hurst and Camden Slone ran the gauntlet at the four-day tournament to place ninth.

It’s a different tournament than most, mainly for the sheer amount of boats: Wednesday and Thursday weights were combined, and the “semifinal round” took place on Friday, with the championship round on Saturday narrowing to just 30 boats.

After the first two days, Hurst and Slone were one of the top two teams from the state of Kentucky.

“They had a great week, they fished pretty consistently all week,” coach Greg Slone said. “It was a lot of ledge fishing. Pickwick is a big lake but with that many boats it can actually fish kind of small because the fish are concentrated in schools.”

The semifinal round on Friday was one of the biggest challenges: Weight reset after the first two days.

“They ended up on Friday, the semifinal round, with five fish in the middle of the day,” coach Slone said. “They had one fish that was barely a keeper. They really needed to cull that one because we didn’t know what it would take to get to the finals. We had about a 50 mile run back to the weigh in, so we started heading back and stopped at a place we found during practice. We hadn’t seen anyone fish that school. We stopped there Friday, we were estimating time to get back but they only had about five casts. We didn’t catch anything till the last cast, and Caleb caught one that was six pounds, 13 ounces.”

That spot had treated the duo well throughout the event: Coach Slone said the duo caught their fifth keeper (out of five) there on Thursday, then went back there for two fish at the start of Saturday’s championship round.

Hurst and Slone combined for 18 pounds, 15 ounces in the Friday semifinal round, which was fifth-best overall.

On Saturday, the two caught 15 pounds, six ounces.

“On Saturday, everybody’s weight goes to zero. So we started in that hole, got there and Caleb caught an 18-inch fish, then shortly after Cam caught a four-pound smallmouth,” coach Slone said. “Then the bite died on us there. We decided to make a move and went to another school of fish that had been fished hard all week. We thought maybe we could beat out a few keepers, and they did. They caught three keepers there and finished their bag. That put them in ninth place.”

Across all four days, they caught 66 pounds, four ounces across 20 fish.

A ninth-place finish was the highest ever at the national event for the two now-graduated seniors, and coach Slone said each year they improved.

“That’s the beauty of high school fishing: The numbers of kids in a high school doesn’t really carry much weight as far as how well you do,” coach Slone said. “One team consists of two people, it’s just really how hard you want to work at it, how much you want to learn about the science and habits of bass. But the kids, it’s been a lot of fun. This was the fourth high-school world final that they had been to. The first couple of years, they were younger, didn’t do as well. Last year, they ended up 19th overall. They’ve just gotten better every year through all of the tournaments they’ve fished. This was definitely the highlight of their careers.”

Those two weren’t the only two to qualify from DCA, and coach Slone said he had a strong team this season.

“As a coach, I really appreciate all the kids on our fishing team,” he said. “They’ve all had big successes. Alex Wall and Jackson Brockman qualified for the national championship through the Student Angler Federation state championship. Isaiah Smith and Trey Barnett qualified for the national championship as well. Cam and Caleb, they have one tournament left, they qualified for the B.A.S.S. national championship as well, in August.”