The Vandebilt Catholic bass fishing team is growing — both in participants and also in the amount of hardware in its trophy case.
The Terriers won top billing at the Louisiana BASS Nation High School State Championship Tournament on May 5 in Amelia.
The Terriers qualified four teams for the State Tournament during the course of the season and each team showed out at the final tournament, placing in the Top 20 to allow Vandebilt enough total weight as a school to take home the team title.
One team consists of two students who fish together throughout the course of the year. In each boat with the students is a captain — usually a parent or someone of legal age to drive the boat.
The captain can offer tips and advice about baits or when to move to and from one spot to the next. But all the actual fishing must be done by the kids.
“It’s exciting,” said Tommy Thompson, one of the parents who drives a boat for the young anglers during the season. “Our club has come a long way. The sport is growing for the whole state. Every year, there’s a new school who is signing up and it’s actually probably closer to 3-4 new schools signing up. So for us to be able to win it, it’s a big deal. We’re happy and proud of the kids.”
The club at Vandebilt is in its infancy, but is sprouting quickly.
It started in 2017 with about 10 teams (20 or so members). In 2018, the club grew to 16-18 teams. This year, there were 26 teams total in the club.
Thompson said that because one must have a boat to fish competitively in tournaments, not all of the teams were able to actually fish throughout the season. But the club remains all-inclusive to anyone who wants to join, and Thompson said it will stay that way as long as he and the current core group of parents are involved.
“We didn’t want this to just be limited to those who have a boat,” Thompson said. “If you want to be part of the club, you can join the club. We won’t exclude anyone. We do different events throughout the year besides for fishing in tournaments. Sometimes, we might bring in a pro fisherman in to talk to the kids about some things they could do when on the water. Those types of events are open and available to everyone who is a member of the club. We’re starting to see a lot of activity and participation.”
Throughout a high school fishing season, there are 4 tournaments. And the Top 10 percent of teams at each individual tournament qualify for state.
The format of the tournaments is each team weighs its top five fish. A team fishes all day and can catch any amount of fish it desires. But it’s up to each team to manage their live well accordingly and keep their five biggest for weigh-in.
The Terriers qualified four teams for State and at the big event, the team did some of its best work with all the qualifiers weighing more than 9 pounds for the tournament, which, ultimately, enabled the school to secure the team title.
The team of Michael Clement and Joshua Bergeron were the highest finishers in the individual competition, placing third overall with a weight of 14.15 — just shy of the 14.19 pound-mark set by runners-up Clay Polk and Austin Sibley of the Livingston Parish Bassmasters Club.
Also scoring well were the teams of Nicholas Tamberella and Braxton Brien (fifth place overall, 13.44 pounds), Tanner Loney and Ryan Welch (12th place overall, 10.14 pounds) and Thomas Thompson and Brady Drury (20th place overall, 9.17 pounds).
The Welch-Loney combination had a memorable day. Welch won the Big Bass for the tournament with a 4.76-pound lunker — the heaviest fish of the tournament.
“We had a little bit of an advantage with the tournament being in Amelia,” Thompson said. “We’re familiar with our area. It was convenient for us and it was close by, so we had the chance to pre-fish weeks in advance.”
Going forward, Thompson said the goal for the club is continued growth and more people to get involved. He said he expects the sport to continue growing throughout all of the Houma-Thibodaux area — especially as word continues to get out about the opportunity to fish competitively for your school.
“Not every kid has a football career of a basketball career, but they may have other hobbies,” Thompson said. “For us down here, we have a lot of kids who like to fish. That they now get to do that and represent their school, that’s great. It’s a great thing to see.” •