Their focus must turn to schoolwork instead of schools of fish, but two teenage N.C. anglers will return to classes this month with quite a summer break story.
Wyatt Long of Raleigh teamed with Hunter McKee of Thomasville to reach the final day of fishing in the High School Fishing World Finals and High School National Championships dual event held June 27-July 1 on Lake Pickwick in Florence, Ala.
“We didn’t make nationals cut, but we were still fishing for the worlds,” said Long, 16, who will be a junior at Falls Lake Academy. “We had to work our way up to fish the finals in worlds.”
Thirty-one of the 332 teams from 33 states and Canada fished the final: the top 10 from nationals, 10 from a second-chance round, 10 from the world semifinals and one “Lucky Dog” team. McKee, who favors plastic worms, and Long, strongest on crankbaits, advanced by placing fifth out of 20 semifinals teams, weighing four fish totaling 16 pounds, 4 ounces.
Those semifinals fish were hard won.
“We didn’t catch anything out of the grass that morning, then we went to our docks, and there were no fish on them,” Long said. “At 11:30, we didn’t have a single fish. We noticed a drop-off in front of docks on our map.”
McKee’s shakyhead cast caught a 14-incher, then Long cast a hair jig for back-to-back 3- and 4-pounders. McKee hooked a 7-pounder on a football jig.
In the final, Long and McKee weighed no fish and tied for 30th.
“It didn’t really hit me what me and Wyatt had done until that Friday when the tournament director called us all together to talk about (Saturday’s final),” McKee said. “He said, ‘Boys, ain’t no matter. Y’all are the best 31 teams of high school anglers in the world.’ That sent chills down my back.”
McKee, whose father Jay yielded boat driving duties to a local guide for worlds, is a six-year Denali Rods pro staffer. He hopes to follow grandfather and former EverStart Series angler Ray Shelton and pursue a fishing industry career.
Long, who discovered fishing while on a slow hunting trip with his father David, has learned bass fishing through a network including Jerry Lucas of Outhouse Tackle in Raleigh and Jeff Narron of YES (Youth Education Series). He hopes to fish for a college team and pursue engineering.
“The most important thing you can do is catch fish on a consistent basis,” Long said. “Get out there and fish the body of water closest to you and learn about the fish on that lake.”
Long and McKee qualified for nationals with a fifth-place finish on Lake Hartwell on the Georgia-South Carolina border. They also were fifth in the high school state championship on Kerr Lake.
The winning worlds team, from Lawrence County, Tennessee, weighed five fish totaling 24 pounds, 9 ounces. East Gaston anglers were seventh and East Rowan eighth. Find results at www.highschoolfishing.org/high-school-fishing-world-final.
Women: Registration ends Aug. 15 for the N.C. Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation’s Women. Only. Weekend. Sept. 8-10 at Chatham County Wildlife Club. Go to www.ncnwtf.com.
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