David Lowrie looks across his desk at a picture almost 14 years old and smiles with a father's pride.
The photo is of his son, Hank, then slightly more than 2 years old with diapers visible under his shorts, holding a bluegill he caught with no help from father or grandfather.
There soon will be another photo on the wall, this one of the National Bass Fishing Trail junior angler of the year and national junior champion.
Hank won the NBT tournament last month on Lake Clinton at Clinton, Ill., after snagging more than 32 pounds of fish in the three-day event. The Palmer, Tenn., resident earned the angler-of-the-year distinction for his season-long success that included several one-day tournaments, the two-day district tournament and the national championship.
It wasn't as easy as it might sound, especially in the nationals. Hank was the only contestant to land his five-fish limit every day, but several of those came as the 2 p.m. weigh-in deadline approached.
"Normally you can find one bait and another 15-20 spots when you could run a pattern," the tournament's start-to-finish leader said.
"The first day we got out a little late and I still had three fish by 8 a.m.," Hank added. "Then I went from 8 to 1:30 and nothing at all. I was thinking I was going in with three fish, and it went to a last-ditch effort at 1:30. I'm thinking one more cast, and boom, and then with about a minute before we had to head to the dock I got number five."
The second morning lagged. He didn't have a bite by 10:30, and then when he did his frustration began to mount as he broke off a bait.
"We pulled up to my early-morning spot about 1:30 and pulled up and I caught one. I got it in the boat and on the very next cast I caught another one," said Lowrie, who has since been invited to be a member of the Denali Rods junior pro staff.
He backed off to let things calm down for a few minutes and returned quickly, catching his limit in a 30-minute span.
"I had close to 12 pounds that day," he recalled.
The third day began like the second -- nothing in the boat by 10:30 -- and he made his way back to the previous day's hot spot and put four in the boat almost immediately, but the last one wasn't in until close to 1:30.
"This is the best year I've had by far. Last year I ended up third [in the nationals]," the younger Lowrie said.
"When he was 6 he said he wanted to fish a tournament, and one of them he wanted to go home early. But the next year he asked if we could fish more tournaments," David said. "It slowly progressed from there. In 2010 when the nationals were in Chattanooga he had gotten to where he was more serious about it and had studied more.
"Two years ago he started making more of the decisions, and he's been calling the shots [in the boat] since last year. He made the decisions about where we going and what we were doing. He drove the boat about 95 percent of the time.
"Driving the boat, handling the electronics and studying the terrain convinced me he really wants to do this for a living, and this last tournament -- his decisions and his judgment -- showed me how much he has learned and how much promise he has."
Contact Ward Gossett at email@example.com or 423-886-4765.
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...
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