“I just started bass fishing about 2-1/2 years ago,” said 16-year-old Gracie Herbold of Headland High School in Headland, Alabama. “My aunt Gina Burdeshaw with Mr. Jeffrey McCord started the Headland Bass Team when her son, Cole Burdeshaw, expressed an interest in bass fishing and wanted to start a bass fishing team at our high school. I looked at the competition aspect of a bass fishing team and thought being a part of this team would be a lot of fun. One of the members of the team dropped out, so my dad, Hank Herbold, became the boat captain for my cousin and his partner. When Cole and his partner qualified for the national tournament, I went with my dad and Cole to see what a national tournament looked like, and what went on there. Then after my dad took me out on the lake, and I caught a bass, I thought bass fishing was so much fun and decided to at least try the Headland High School Bass Fishing Team.”
Herbold’s first year of competition, she fished with her partner Addison Speigner, a senior who then graduated. Aaron Cherry’s fishing partner was also a senior and graduated. So her second year, members of the teams rotated fishing with each other. The first tournament that Cherry and Herbold competed in together, they really did well.
“We decided that we’d become partners and see how we could do competing as a team,” she said. “The president of our bass team at Headland is Alexis Grandstaff, who’s a very good angler. We have another girl joining the team this year, Carly Peters, and this will be her first year to compete. We’re beginning to see more girls on Headland High School bass fishing team.”
Herbold’s first year of competition she qualified for the nationals, and this year when she and Cherry qualified to fish in the Mossy Oak Bassmasters High School Series National Championship, they were really excited.
“When we went to Kentucky Lake to practice before the tournament, I only caught one bass with a top-water lure. So, I didn’t think we would do well in the tournament,” said Herbold. “But during practice, we found a couple of good spots where we located bass but didn’t know if we could get those bass to bite during the tournament. On the last day of practice, we went to one of our places, and my dad, who is our boat captain, cast to a spot and caught a 3-pounder. We released the fish and determined that’s where we’d start fishing on opening day.”
The biggest fish Herbold has ever caught was a 7-pound largemouth at Wheeler Lake on the Tennessee River. Her favorite technique of bass fishing is to fish a plastic worm very slowly. She believes power fishing (fishing with big baits) is often overrated.
“I know that power fishing is an awesome way to fish, but when you’re fishing slowly, and your worm comes over or through a piece of cover, then you almost know for certain you’re going to get a bite and set your hook,” she said.
Each day of the three-day tournament she caught three bass. Her biggest bass was a 5-pound largemouth that was caught on day one of the tournament, and on day three, she caught a 4-pounder.
“Catching the 5-pounder on the first day was really crazy because there were only 30 minutes left before we had to go to the weigh-in when I hooked that big fish,” she recounted. “Once I landed that bass and got it in the live well, Aaron and I began to believe we might have a chance to win.”
On the last day of the tournament when Herbold caught the 4-pound bass, she and Cherry were really struggling. They only had one or two bass in the live well, but right after Herbold caught the 4-pounder, on the next cast, she caught a 2-pound keeper that went into the live well.
“I learned on that last day of fishing that if you don’t quit, and if you fish hard, you can put yourself into a position to win,” she said.
Because Cherry and Herbold are both 16 years old, they have two more years that they can fish together. If they continue to learn and do well in the qualifying tournaments, hey may possibly have another chance to win the Nationals.
The Headland High School Bass Team and all the members of their families have created a new family. There are17 members of the Headland High School Bass Team, and it’s a relatively small school. They have a great bond.
“Aaron and I were the Anglers of the Year for the Wiregrass Student Angler Trail (WSAT), which is sanctioned by B.A.S.S., by winning on Lake Eufaula by one more point than the second-place team. When I’m asked what makes me a good bass fisherman, I don’t really know. However, my dad says that I’m always connected to my lures, and I know how that bait’s performing, even though it’s out of sight when it’s underwater.”
Herbold created a new goal for her fishing this year to inspire and encourage other lady anglers to join a high school team. Many young ladies see bass fishing as a boy’s sport, and they don’t know that they can also be successful fishing for and catching bass. Another one of her goals is to fish competitively in college and earn a scholarship to a college or a university that has a bass fishing team.
Learn more about High School Bass Fishing at https://www.bassmaster.com/high-school-bass-fishing.