For Tucker Veronee and Landon Gramling of Gilbert High School’s Bass Fishing Team, the new year could not come fast enough. This dynamic duo is the defending High School Fishing World Finals Champion, and they will attempt to make history in 2021 by becoming the first team to ever win the event twice. A very lofty goal by any standard as this event brings together the best of the best in High School fishing to the tune of well over 300 teams each year. And since this year’s event comes back to their home state of South Carolina and the legendary Lake Hartwell, the pair have their sights set on making history.
Tucker and Landon’s story is typical of the large majority of High School students and teams across the country who are truly hoping that the new year will let them get back to something close to normal. That means back to their team meetings, club events and tournament trails where they can enjoy the camaraderie and excitement that competitive fishing brings to everyone. “We used to meet fairly often to discuss upcoming tournaments but with the COVID-19 crisis we have had to shift our routine to large group text messages and just meeting at the ramp on the days of our events” echoed the pair.
For Tucker, who is a senior this year at Gilbert, fishing is ingrained in his life as his parents own JC’s Outdoors in Gilbert, South Carolina. The newly built and expanded store has become one of the premier spots for outdoorsmen and women around Lake Murray and the surrounding area. Being around the store daily gives him exposure to almost every make, model and brand of fishing equipment offered. When asked about some of his favorite go-to baits and equipment he sites his Lew’s BB1 reel and the Strike King Rage Bug trailers as top shelf in his tackle collection.
For Landon, a junior this year, the story is very similar as his father is the general manager of JC’s Outdoors and he has spent more than his fair share of time in the store as well. Combine that with the fact that these young stars simply love to fish, and you have the recipe for a great team which they demonstrated last year by winning the World Finals in Wisconsin on the mighty Mississippi river.
When asked about their experience there which included the excitement of a very slim 3 oz margin of victory, the pair both said it was one of the absolute most exciting times of their lives. “We want to go through that again and we plan on getting up to Lake Hartwell several times this year and learning the lake better” stated Gramling. “We have a good friend who fishes for Clemson University and we are going to pick his brain and do as much homework as we can” added Veronee. “Fortunately for me I grew up fishing the Savannah River Chain with my grandparents, so I have fished Hartwell many times. We will put a lot of time into studying the lake and gaining as much information as we can. I guarantee you we will be ready to go!”
As with many teams across the country, the new year has schedules being set, changed and set again depending on the COVID-19 situation in their respective areas. The Gilbert pair plan on fishing the High School Bass Challenge trail in lower South Carolina as well the TBF/MLF and Bass Opens that they can get to before the World Finals kicks off in Anderson, SC in June 28th.
For both Lew’s and Strike King, the new year also brings with it the hope of getting back to something close to normal. The company has just opened its 2021 Freshman Scholarship Program which is available to all seniors who will be graduating in 2021. This program awards five $5,000 scholarships to deserving applicants who apply through the Lews.com or StrikeKing.com websites. They also offer their ever-popular High School Grant program and Academic Buying programs which are set to reopen at a later date this summer. “Our entire industry has had a trying yet fruitful year and our company is no different” stated Lew’s & Strike King Field Activation Director Tony Mehrl. “We are committed to helping both High School and College anglers across the country have access to some of the best equipment on the market and we plan to have all of our high school and college support programs back to full strength as soon as possible” added Mehrl.
In 2020, the company issued over 120 equipment grants to High School Teams and trails across the country despite the complications caused by the pandemic.
As for Landon Gramling and Tucker Veronee, you can rest assured that this well-focused pair will have their sights set on taking full advantage of all of these programs as well as making history at Lake Hartwell in 2021!