He won everything but first place and the door prizes, and he’s still a teenager.
With a name fitting his fishing skill, Austin Bass, 15, took second place overall at the Fort Stewart Bass Tournament Saturday at Pineview Lake. He also caught the largest fish and won the youth category.
Allen Murray, a retiree with the Army Corps of Engineers, took first place overall with a five-fish weight total of 7.98 lbs. Bass came in second with 7.85 lbs. His big one weighed in at 1.99 lbs. Third place overall went to local disabled veteran and all-round sportsman Jason Letterman.
“I hope everybody had fun today,” said Jim Reed, Outdoor Recreation events director with Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation. “Before we get started with the award presentations, I want to remind y’all about next month’s bass tournament at Metz Lake. Folks, that’s our trophy pond.”
There may not have been any trophy bass caught at Saturday’s event, but a lot of fish were caught, and a lot of tired fishermen and women, boys and girls, went home happy to have participated.
Capt. Ivan Bowen with 92nd Engineer Battalion and 4-year-old Isabelle, stayed along the shore throughout the morning, but he said it was worth it to be able to fish and have his family with him, regardless how he did in the tournament. Father and son team John and Richard Kunda echoed Bowen’s sentiments, saying fishing was a great way to spend any Saturday.
Bill Cooney, FMWR Outdoor Recreation assistant, said the lake was not stocked for the event, but several fish were tagged. Staff Sgt. John Farvour, 5/7th Cav. Regiment, was the only one to catch a tagged fish. Fisheries biologist Rachel Hallman, who ran the weigh-in, asked everyone who might catch one of the other tagged fish to call her office to report it.
Cooney explained the minimum size fish that could be kept had to be 12 inches, but that all fish caught at the tournament were released after weigh-in. He said the minimum size a fisherman could keep in non-tournament fishing was 15 inches.
Murray, who retired two years ago, said he’s now doing what he enjoys doing most — fishing and hunting.
“I keeps me out of trouble, most of the time,” he laughed. “I just got into tournament fishing a year or so ago. I took 17th place at a tournament on Lake Hartwell last week. I was out here fishing yesterday and didn’t even know about this tournament. That’s when I registered.”
Christie Bass at first said her son had taught himself how to fish. She had helped him row their jon boat around the lake from daylight until weigh-in at 11 a.m. She said she knew he seemed to have done well, but didn’t expect him to have won over the seasoned fishermen. She then said his father, a soldier stationed at Fort Campbell, actually taught Austin to fish.
“I’ve been fishing as long as I can remember,” Bass said, still beaming from his victories. “I love to fish — catfish, bream, bass. My favorite fish to catch is bass, but my favorite fish to eat is catfish.”
The young angler did something many more veteran fishermen often avoid. He spilled his secrets for catching the big ones.
“I mostly used an artificial worm called a finesse worm,” he said. “The one that worked best here today was a watermelon seed-colored worm. I tried using spinner baits but didn’t have any luck. I always use different presentation with each cast.”
Perhaps as he gains experience, this young fisherman will be less willing to share how he does what he does so well. However, when asked if he’d like to have his own TV fishing show, the lad grinned and nodded his head. Maybe one day fishermen will turn on their flat screens to learn “Bass Fishing Tips from Bass Pro Austin Bass.”