The Kiefer, Oklahoma Bass Fishing Team of Jeremy Tolle and Garrett Hale competed against 766 other young anglers through three hot days of mid-summer fishing on Pickwick Lake near Florence, Alabama before the field was cut to 31 teams for the final round, when they brought a massive 23 pound 9 ounce limit to the scales to win the TBF Student Angler Federation’s High School Bass Fishing World Championship.
The likeable and talented young men caught their big 5-fish limit of largemouth, including a nearly 8-pound bass that vaulted them to victory, using Quantum S3 PT reels and a homemade green pumpkin/black 3/4-ounce football jig around shell beds located on Tennessee River channel ledges in 18 to 25’ of water. Tolle made the jig himself, and said they only had three left by tournament’s end.
“I make my own jigs because it allows me to show the fish some different skirt colors they may not be used to seeing, and it saves me money,” says Tolle, who has been obsessed with bass fishing since he was old enough to hold a rod and reel. “The really heavy 3/4-ounce jig allowed us to remain in contact with the shell beds on the bottom, and cause the kind of disturbance those big fish seemed to love.”
Long casts, smooth retrieves, and speedy line pick-up were key to covering long stretches of river channel ledges, and Quantum’s new Smoke S3 PT reel in a 7.3:1 ratio SM100HPT served as the perfect tool according to Tolle’s teammate Garrett Hale. “That reel just casts so smoothly, and it’s a super dependable reel too,” says Hale.
Along with two really tall trophies, the passion-rich high schoolers hauled home a variety of prizes in their boat captain Jeff Tolle’s Toyota Tundra along the 9-hour drive back home to Oklahoma, including large flat screen televisions, a Lowrance sonar/GPS unit, and $56,000 in scholarship offers from West Tennessee’s Bethel University should they choose to attend college there, and be a part of the tradition-rich Bethel Bass Fishing Team.
For now, Tolle is calling the recent victory the best moment of his young life, and celebrating all the goodness of competitive high school fishing. “In high school bass fishing, you don’t have to worry about trying to win back your entry fees. You can just go fishing, have fun, get to know other anglers, and there are lots of cool opportunities that come from having a successful tournament.”
Tolle is right, as he and Hale suddenly find themselves receiving a great deal of media attention, and even autograph requests from anglers barely younger than they are. Indeed it’s good to be a high school bass fishing world champion.