PARIS, Tenn. (BASSMASTER/WIAT) — While windy conditions slowed their bite tremendously, the Briarwood Christian duo of Tucker Smith and Hayden Marbut secured two smallmouth bass for 7 pounds, 14 ounces on Championship Saturday and won the Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School National Championship presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors on Kentucky Lake.
Their final three-day total was 47-5.
The National Championship victory is the third-straight title for Smith, who won his previous titles in August, and the first for Marbut.
“It feels amazing, especially because of the time of year, Smith, who is now attending college at Auburn University, said. “[It started] super hot to where your glasses are fogged up from sweat, to being so cold you wished you were at home.
“It’s kind of crazy to win both times of the year,” Smith said.
With the victory, the team from Alabama earned $5,000 in scholarship money and another $200 for the big bass of the tournament, a 7-5 lunker caught on Day 1.
Smith and Marbut fished specific areas of shallow bars they scouted before the lake went off-limits and again during official practice. Their tournament consisted of a couple of runs between Blood River, located north of takeoff, and about 5 miles south of Paris Landing.
“They weren’t just up and down the bar, it had to be a specific spot, like almost the size of a truck bed,” Marbut said. “We came back and checked them and they would be sitting on those spots.”
The duo used a variety of topwater walking baits to coax aggressive fish, mostly smallmouth, into biting.
“Moving it fast [helped],” Smith said. “We were kind of working it slow and they would miss it, and if you sped it up they didn’t have a chance to look at it. They would just come up and react to it.”
The 22-2 bag they caught Day 1 that set the tone for the tournament, however, was caught on a spot where they hadn’t practiced, but was close to another key spot they had previously fished.
Marbut added that the big bass of the tournament hit his topwater bait close to the boat and came unbuttoned as soon as they netted it.
Smith and Marbut fished mostly the same way on Day 2. But on Day 3, a strong cold front sent temperatures south and created windy and wavy conditions on Kentucky Lake, putting an end to their topwater bite.
After running around most of the day trying to find a bite, they returned to the spot of their big bag and caught two smallmouth on a lipless crankbait, enough to ensure the win.
“There were smaller waves than we thought,” Smith said. “So, we sat on it for three or four hours and caught those smallies.”
The Day 1 bag also earned Smith and Marbut an $875 scholarship from the family of Hunter Owens in memory of Owens, who finished in the Top 12 of the Bassmaster High School National Championship two years ago before dying in a car accident.
Dylan May and Adam Troyer from Brownsburg High School in Indiana caught the only limit on Championship Saturday, weighing 12-4 to jump from third place to second with a three-day total of 37-14. The Brownsburg High anglers were also one of the most consistent teams, catching over 12 pounds each day of the event.
“Today really was really not that pressurized,” May said. “We made it to the final day and it was just fun. To be in second, it’s insane. I would have never thought that. It’s a blessing, honestly.”
While they tried a few other spots, May and Troyer caught the majority of their keepers on an old bridge near the back of Eagle Creek on the Big Sandy River side of Kentucky Lake.
“We went over there and had a few key bites in practice, and we went there the first day and found fish there,” May said. “We stuck to it and we told ourselves, until we run out of fish we are going to keep fishing it.
“It’s a great spot. I knew we didn’t have the spot to win, but we brought in consistent weight each day.”
During practice, Troyer said they threw a variety of baits around the bridge but did not get bit until he threw a Stupid Tube under the overpass.
“We believe those fish really liked it because they don’t see it very often,” May said. “We threw a jig, beaver and a craw and those fish wouldn’t touch it. But as soon as I threw the tube in there they picked it up.”
May said they used a mix of green pumpkin/purple fleck and regular green pumpkin tubes and dyed the tails chartreuse.
On Day 3, after a 45-minute delay for high winds, May and Troyer pulled up to the bridge and caught their first three keepers within an hour and their fourth keeper around 9:15 a.m. After catching a couple of short fish around the bridge and the roadbed around the area, the bite shut off, forcing May and Troyer to try a few points in Eagle Creek.
When the points didn’t produce, they returned to the bridge around 1 p.m., and on his first cast, Troyer landed their fifth and final keeper.
Chandler Pruett and Braden Wilson from Scotts Hill High School in Lexington, Tenn., finished third with a three-day total of 34-1 after catching four fish for 10-10 on Day 3. Pruett said a Strike King Red Eye Shad and a ChatterBait were the key baits for them this week.