provided by John Phillips
One of Mossy Oak’s basic tenets is to help young people learn about and grow in their outdoor endeavors. Along with Bassmaster, Mossy Oak has sponsored bass fishing tournaments for the Junior Series (young people that includes students from 2nd to 8th grade), the High School Series and the College Series. These tournaments give students educational opportunities to learn to bass fish, be coached in bass fishing and know how to compete and work with pros and fishing tackle companies to later gain entry into the fishing industry. Just as in team sports, these dedicated young anglers now have a direct pathway to reach their dreams through these established channels. Mossy Oak is helping these young people live their best lives outdoors by sponsoring tournaments and awarding trophies, money and scholarships to the winning fishing teams.
Many tournaments are won or lost because of the bass found with contestants’ electronics. When Mossy Oak asked how important electronics were to the McKendree team’s success at the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series, also sponsored by Mossy Oak, at Smith Lake, Andrew Althoff said:
“The lake was over flood stage then, so our electronics were critical to keep our boat in the shallow depths of water that we wanted to fish without hitting the bottom. We were running two Humminbird depth finders, and the preloaded maps enabled us to find and run the edges of creek channels. Ethan [Jones] and I initially spent a lot of time during the tournament looking for places to catch spotted bass because, like everyone else, we thought the spotted bass would win the tournament. We identified numbers of contours that we thought would hold spotted bass. But then when we fished them, all we could catch were smaller spots. We never could locate a school of big spotted bass.”
“I fished this event in 2019 and finished fifth,” said Jones. “We placed well, catching largemouths in shallow water. In this year’s tournament, I wanted to take a break from graphing the bottom and catching undersized spotted bass. So, I told Andrew, ‘Let’s run up to some of the places where I pinpointed largemouths last year in the backs of these creeks and see if they’re there.’ Since the water had been rising, I figured the largemouths should’ve been following the rising water into newly flooded land. I caught two, 3-pound largemouths. Every time we tired of graphing the bottom and catching small spotted bass, we’d run up into a creek and catch some largemouths. Finally, we decided to focus on fishing for largemouths in the backs of creeks in shallow water. These bass were so shallow we couldn’t see them on our electronics.”
Jones has two Humminbird Helix 12 depth finders on his boat. “I like those depth finders because not only do they have down-scanning, side-scanning and forward-scanning, they also offer some of the best lake maps on the market. I also have a Minn Kota Ultrex trolling motor and pairing the depth finders with the trolling motor that could read the maps allowed us to stay right on the creek channels where we wanted to be.”
Because of their win on Smith Lake on February 29, 2020, Althoff and Jones qualified to fish Lay Lake with other collegiate teams during the Classic and weigh their fish in on Sunday, the last day of the 2020 Bassmaster Classic. Although they came in 9th place for the Classic tournament, they drove into the arena at the Birmingham-Jefferson County Civic Center in front of thousands of people, weighed in the bass they caught and walked across the same stage as the professional anglers. They also worked in their sponsors’ booths during the show and had the opportunity to, according to Jones, “Put our names out on the biggest stage in bass fishing to all the sponsors and fans who attended the Classic.”