When Lew’s and Strike King announced the 12-week High School Digital Fishing Tournament in early March, little did we know that it was going to become such a prized activity for the young anglers participating in the event.
The onset of COVID-19 meant that most school activities, including sports and high school fishing tournaments, were cancelled.
The contest ran from April 6 to June 26, 2020. Once word of the event began to spread - that anglers could fish their local waters and register catches using the HOOK’D Fishing Tournaments app while maintaining the social distancing guidelines – tournament participation took off.
The event was contested in three divisions, with weekly prizes for big bass coming from Lew’s and Strike King lure packs being drawn and selected from those participants that posted pictures to social media using the correct #strikekingbass hashtags.
The North Division included: North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Washington D.C., Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont and New York.
The South Division included: Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina.
The West Division included: Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.
The entire field produced some amazing results. Throughout the 12 weeks, nearly 4,500 catches were posted to the HOOK’D Fishing Tournaments app totaling more than 70,000 inches of smallmouth, largemouth and spotted bass.
Out of the 61 teams who registered for the event nationwide, the grand prize winners in each region were:
South – Vidalia Heritage Academy – Vidalia, GA
North – Brownsburg Fishing Club – Brownsburg, IN
West – Delta Saints Bass Team – Clarksburg, CA
South Division Winners
Ricky Cummings, the sponsor for the Vidalia Heritage Academy team, said the fishing team is new to the school and the Digital Tournament really helped the kids. “This is our first year to have a fishing team, and I decided to be the sponsor because my son Noah wanted to fish,” he said. “With all of the sanctioned high school events being cancelled, this gave them a chance to fish and continue to develop their skills safely.”
He said they didn’t enter until after it started. “We didn’t find out until week two and didn’t get our measuring boards until week five” said Cummings. “The kids went fishing all the time in our area and posted results constantly – we are thankful to Lew’s and Strike King for putting this on, it couldn’t have happened at a better time.”
Noah Cummings produced a weekly big fish for the South Division in week 10 when he caught a 14-pound largemouth bass – his personal best - on a topwater lure and a Lew’s Mach Crush combo. He won a Lew’s combo for his catch.
West Division Winners
Brian Soto is the coach for the Delta Saints football team. Naturally, with the school being located on the banks of the Sacramento River just north of the California Delta, his football team includes a significant number of hunters and anglers.
The team started early. “We entered right from the beginning, and as kids found out, more got involved,” he said. “We had six anglers participating, and they focused on fishing the sloughs around the Sacramento River and North Delta.”
He said that the team fished as much as possible, even organizing a pair of overnight campouts on the levees to fish all night – even if just for fun. “We would fish for bass for the contest all day, fish for catfish all night, and then start again bass fishing as soon as the sun came up,” he said. “The whole event was a blast, and we were logging 20 to 30 fish per trip. The kids really needed this, and with sports and other activities cancelled it really helped them get through a rough spell.”
As with the South Division winners, Coach Soto’s son Jax produced his personal best largemouth bass, an 8-pound, 11-ounce beast that won a Lew’s Mach combo. The fish was caught on a soft plastic stickbait.
North Division Winners
Jason Catellier had been the wrestling coach at his school until his own children reached an age that they needed more time commitments from him. When the opportunity was presented for him to be the sponsor of the Brownsburg Fishing Team, he took it.
What started with three kids has become twenty. While Coach Catellier oversees operations, he allows the older students to organize and coordinate. That is how he heard about the Digital Fishing Tournament. “My club president told me about it, so we polled the team and entered them,” he said. “We ended up with five of our members fishing every day in community and retention ponds. We had such great weather that they could do so, and it really worked out well.”
Catellier said the entire format worked out well. “The way the whole thing was put together made it fun – catch, measure, photo and post,” he said. “We all really enjoyed it, and it really gave the kids something to do in a tough time.”
The Brownsburg team also produced a weekly big bass winner. Freshman Trey Hayden posted a 6-pound largemouth to the HOOK’D Fishing Tournaments App and earned a weekly big bass Lew’s Mach combo himself.
The event turned out to be an incredible experience for all involved, and we look forward to future competitive events with Lew’s and Strike King.