DAYTON, Tenn. — Austin Massingill and Jordan Holbert didn’t think their five bass were big enough to win the first Tennessee high school state fishing tournament Saturday, but a bigger issue was getting them back to the Dayton Boat Dock to be weighed.
The boat they fished out of had broken down on Lake Chickamauga.
Taylor Massingill, Austin’s older brother, was their adult driver per The Bass Federation rules, and a friend of his happened to come by and give the two Soddy-Daisy High School anglers a lift.
It turned out to be a championship ride. Their total of 12 pounds, 8 ounces beat second-place Zach Massey and Chris Johnson of Clinton High by 2 pounds, 5 ounces.
Rhea County’s Caleb Kretzer and Lucas Howell were third with 9-7, and teammates Caleb and Mikey Jenkins were sixth with 7-0 behind Walker Valley’s Caleb Luzader and Andrew Lyles at 8-11 and Jackson Christian’s Darret Fowler and Jonathan Harston at 7-12.
There were 32 boats in the inaugural state event, with six of them from Rhea County and five from Oliver Springs. Sixteen schools were represented, plus one duo of home-schoolers.
“It was tough fishing today,” said Rhea coach Brian Derlak, who recently predicted that it would take 21 pounds to win the event. “The water dropped a foot from yesterday, and when it drops that much it really disturbs the fish’s normal feeding.
“Our team had been out on Chickamauga five times this year, and the lowest amount we ever had was 13 1/2 pounds.”
The winning duo didn’t use “any tricks,” Holbert said. Taylor Massingill, vice president of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s bass club, and the Massingills’ grandfather, Ronnie Johnson, both are very familiar with the lake and gave them a list of spots to try.
“When they’d quit hitting at one place, we’d just go to another one,” Holbert said.
They threw three fish back but still didn’t think their total would be in contention for the victory.
“I go to a lot of weigh-ins where they have 20 to 25 pounds,” his partner said.
Anyone in high school was eligible to participate, and the younger Massingill knew he wanted to take part after his brother told him about it, but Holbert didn’t decide to join him until “last weekend,” he admitted. That’s despite the fact the two are good friends and have fished a lot together since last summer.
“I’m a last-minute kind of person,” Holbert said.
He’s a junior and Massingill is a sophomore, but each has a $1,000 UTC scholarship awaiting him as a result of Saturday’s victory. Both said that’s likely where they’ll go.
Before that, though, they plan to defend their state championship next year, and Rhea’s Derlak, for one, expects there will be a lot more teams competing before the tournament. Several area schools were represented Saturday.
“We were the first team around here, but other ones are starting to follow,” Derlak said. “And this was a great event. The FLW and TBF did a great job with it.”