The Columbia County Youth Fishing Team, just 7 months old, received a welcome booster shot when 18-year-old Tyler Matthews won the Georgia Bass Federation Youth Top Six in his age division on West Point Lake on March 15.
Matthews weighed in a five-bass limit totaling 12.87 pounds, including a 5.89-pounder, for the 15-to 18-year-old title on the lake along the Chattahoochee River on the Georgia-Alabama line.
He will join the 11-to 14-year-old champion, Harrison Norman, of the Junior Bassbusters from the Conyers area, on South Carolina’s Lake Wateree. They’ll compete for the junior title in the GBF Nationals next Aug. 14-16 and a chance to win $10,000 in scholarship money.
Tyler comes by his interest and talent in bass fishing naturally. His father won the local Top 6 Classic on Thurmond Lake in 2006, while his mother is nearly addicted to the pastime, she said. Tyler remembers being told of his riding in his family car’s baby seat when his parents went fishing.
The Evans High School junior had never fished West Point Lake.
“The first time I saw it was the morning we arrived and so I never got to practice,” he said. “My fishing partner (Cameron Wise, of Macon) had pre-practiced the week before so I let him have the front of the boat for the first half of the day so I could see what was going on.
“I cast a Buckeye Lures shakey head worm the whole time and catching that nearly 6-pound bass helped raise my confidence level. I caught 10 or 12 bass in all. They were in the pre-spawn stage in six to eight feet of water.”
The boys were in a boat owned by GBF volunteer Gerald Eisterhold, who is with the Junior Bassbusters.
Tyler has yet to choose a college to extend his education, but the future chemical engineer hopes all of his fishing team members will go and perhaps compete on college fishing teams, of which there is a growing number.
His high school division
teammates are Austin Lynn and Phillips Johnson, while the middle school is led by Blake Stephenson, who finished third. Mason Peace and Kaleb Harris are the other middle schoolers in the division’s top six.
There are eight youths on the team.
The Valdosta Junior Bassmasters won the team tittle with 24.33 pounds, followed by the Junior Bassbusters with 22.06 and Columbia County with 22.03. Procasters Junior Team No. 1, of Macon, was fourth at 18.89, Procasters Junior Team No. 2 was fifth at 8.31, Bremen Blue Devils were sixth at 6.28.
None of this would have taken place had it not been for the
sponsors of the Columbia County team organized last August by Rosie DeAnnuntis. Sponsors make donations of expense money and products.
The current list includes Wildwood Park, Columbia County, TaxSlayer.com, Better Homes & Gardens Executive Partners, The Clark Hill Committee of the Central Savannah River Area, Fairway Ford in Evans, Fishiding Artificial Habitats, SOLitude
Lake Management, Sizemore Staffing, Dixie Riverside A&E Vending, Buckeye Lures,
Chris Baxley Fishing, ZOOM Bait Co., Sea Tow (Thurmond Lake), National Wild Turkey Federation, Backhome Outdoors, GreyGoat Lures, HomegrownTackle.com, GRU Bass Fishing Club, Wild Wing Café (Washington Road), ClubCar, Superheat FGH Services, Evans Dermatology, Kendrick Paint and Body and TruTrac Lures.