AURORA – A whopping five-fish weight of 18 pounds, eight ounces on Saturday lifted Calloway County anglers Bracken Robertson and Dillon Starks to the first-ever KHSAA State Bass Fishing Tournament championship.
It was the biggest sack of the tourney, and it was added to a plenty respectable 15-12 effort on Friday.
The Laker pair edged Muhlenberg County’s Zach Warner and Ridge Porter, the leaders after Friday’s first-round action, with a total weight of 34-4, less than two pounds more than Warner and Porter’s 10-fish total of 32-7.
Anglers battled cold, rain and wind both days of the tournament.
Warner and Porter were disappointed after two consistent and fruitful days on the waters of Kentucky Lake. They netted a 16-3 catch on Friday and 16-4 on Saturday.
South Laurel’s Austin Turner and Lucas Powell were third at 31-3.
Marshall County’s James Gibbs and Aidan Cox had identical catches of 13-12 each day for a total of 27-8, good for ninth place among the 41 teams that weighed at least one fish.
The Marshals also had the 12th-place team in Logan Thomas and Nate Jones, who had a total of 26-7.
“My partner and I have been really consistent, second third and stuff, and we were seventh in the reason,” Robertson said. “First in this means the world to us.”
Starks and Robertson said they fished the lake all day Thursday and mapped out a plan. It worked to perfection.
“We went to this one spot we fished yesterday and caught our limit,” Starks said. “We figured we’d go there [Saturday] morning. It’s better to have five fish in the boat starting out.”
The pair moved further south, he said, “and ended up getting some better quality fish, and that turned out pretty good for us.”
“Fishing in the bushes was the best thing we found,” Robertson said.
The anxiety level at the weigh-in was intense, Robertson said, as they waited out the final minutes.
“It’s just an adrenalin rush just going up there on the stage and weighing your fish,” he said.
Getting a top-10 finish was heady stuff for Marshall County sophomores Gibbs and Cox.
“Just to be a part of the first ever Kentucky state tournament is such blessing and such an opportunity.,” Cox said. “I’m so glad that I’m only a sophomore and hopefully in the next two years James and I can walk away with that state champoinship.”
Gibbs said he did not really appreciate the significance of the state tourney.
“Not really at first, but then I realized how many people actually come out to this stuff,” he said.
Seniors Thomas and Jones had “a pretty good day,” Thomas said after their finish just out of the top 10.
“I think at 1:45 [Friday] we only had two keepers,” Thomas said. “But we kind of landed on a spot and caught a fish, caught a good keeper. We went back today and kind of worked the area and caught three good ones.”
Jones boated four of their five fish on Saturday.
“I was pretty worried at the beginning, but it finally picked up a little bit,” he said.
Muhlenberg, which qualified for teams for the state tourney, placed two teams in the top five. Jacob Bowles and James Hampton took fourth with a 30-5 effort despite catching only four fish each day. The four fish were hefty ones, including a 6-pound, 7-ounce monster that earned Big Bass honors for Hampton.
Trigg County’s Mason Shelton and Austin Greene rounded out the top five with a total of 29-5, edging Thomas Nelson’s Logan Crady and Mason McMahan’s 29-5 weight.
Johnson County, which had three of six teams qualify for the state tourney, took two top-10 spots, with Trent Arrowood and Chris Harless in eighth at 28-15 and Donovan Ferguson and Keegan Clevinger 10th with 27-3. Ferguson and Clevinger were the Region 4 tournament champions.
Woodford County got the eighth-place spot, with Nathan Taylor and Terry Hager bringing in 28-1.
Region 1 champions Trevor Salyers and Cody Jackson were eighth after the first day, but were shut out on Saturday and finished with their first-day total of 13-0, dropping them to 26th place.
The host region claimed five of the top 10 spots and four of the top five. South Laurel represented Region 3, qualifying for state with a finish of 11th in the region tournament.
Thomas Nelson and Woodford County advanced after finishes of third and 10th, respectively, in the Region 2 tournament.
Region 3 champions Daniel Lawson and Travis Hunt of Taylor County were 18th in the state tourney with a catch of 20-9.
Region 2 champions Luke Miller and David Ryan Brewer of Louisville St. Xavier caught three fish and ended up 36th with a total weight of 8-4.