Cicero and Snyder Win High School Fishing World Finals
Anthony Cicero IV and Dakota Snyder fished their way through three full days of qualifying rounds to sacked a 16-pound, 6-ounce three-fish limit on the fourth and final day to win the Student Angler Federation’s (SAF) 10th annual High School Fishing World Finals on legendary Pickwick Lake out of Florence, Alabama June 19-22.
Representing Pennsylvania’s Elizabethtown High School, the hard-fishing duo topped an enormous field of 389 teams from 38 states and two foreign countries — Canada and Zimbabwe — to claim the prestigious World Final Champions crown. Squads were comprised of two anglers and an adult boat captain, pushing the total number of participants to more than 1,160.
“It’s absolutely unbelievable,” said Cicero. “Emotions are running high.”
With a payout of more than $2.85 million in college scholarships, cash, gift cards and other prizes at stake, competition was fierce. In fact, tournament officials report that the prize purse was certainly the richest in SAF High School Fishing history and likely the largest ever posted in a single event in all levels of competitive bass fishing.
Total payout in scholarship offers and prizes included: $1.62 million from Simpson University in Redding Calif., $1.08 million from Kentucky Christian University in Kentucky, $96,000 from Bethel University in Tennessee, $10,000 from FLW Outdoors, $12,000 from The Bass Federation, plus more than $40,000 in prizes from sponsors and TBF.
Produced by the Student Anglers Federation (SAF) under the TBF umbrella with support from FLW Outdoors, the popular four-day High School Fishing World Finals and National Championship dual-event format allows families to attend both premier championship events at one time with only one weeks’ vacation. Both events kicked off June 19, with the National Championships concluding on Friday and World Finals wrapping up Saturday. All anglers to compete for three days, with a second-chance round designed to keep everyone in the game until the final-day cut.
Saturday’s field included the 10 National Championship finalists, the top 10 teams from Friday’s World Finals semi-final round, and the next 10 teams (highest day-three weight) from the semi-final round and second-chance rounds combined. A Friday night pizza party, which saw competitors devour more than 350 pizzas, included a “Lucky Dog Last Chance Wildcard” drawing for one team, not already qualified, to compete on day four – bringing the total number of teams competing in the World Finals finale to 31.
While many teams chose to ply Pickwick’s popular offshore ledge fishery, Cicero and Snyder played the shallow game.
Targeting the Mulberry Creek area, near Kroger Island, the team zeroed in on shallow grass with woody cover and hooked bass in depths ranging from 8 inches to five feet.
One area was particularly productive. “We were fishing a stump where we had caught a couple in practice. We caught our three best fish there today and ended it all,” Cicero reported. Anchoring their limit was a 7-7 behemoth that earned Big Bass honors.
Snyder noted that they enjoyed their fastest action throughout the tournament during the morning hours and in overcast conditions—a trend that continued on the final day.
For the win, Cicero and Snyder earned their choice of team scholarship offers to go to a top school and fish on the college fishing team including: A $56,000 – ($28,000 per angler) Scholarship offer from Bethel University, a $100,000 ($50,000 per angler) scholarship offer from Kentucky Christian University and a $80,000 ($40,000 per angler) scholarship offer to Simpson University. Snyder plans to join the United States Marine Corps after graduation, but Cicero says the scholarship options could be life-changing for him.
“This is an amazing opportunity,” he said. “The doors are wide open right now to three great schools, and I have a lot of thinking to do.”
TBF President and CEO Robert Cartlidge said providing such educational opportunities to youngsters who love fishing was a motivating factor for event organizers, and he praised supporters of these efforts.
“It is great to see our sponsor partners and these universities supporting young people in outdoor sports,” he said. “This is one of the reasons why we founded the national high school program in the US back in 2007, so that young anglers could live their dream and earn a good education through fishing that would be on par with any other sport.”
“History was made at Saturday’s World Finals awards ceremony, and it was something to see, as multiple colleges and university recruiters were on site, competing for top teams to attend their institutions of higher learning,” he added. “Whatever else happens, that is a success for these young people in my book.”
Alabama’s Gardendale High School squad, brothers Griffin and Fletcher Phillips, finished second with a 14-pound, 13-ounce limit anchored by a sag-bellied 7-pound, 1-ounce beauty. Adding to the excitement of the siblings’ day, the big bass bit shortly before the weigh-in started.
“We had a grassline where we got a few big bites in practice when it was overcast, but because it was sunny when we blasted off, we didn’t think we could get bit so we didn’t stop there,” Griffin explained. “But as we were heading back in the afternoon, our dad (their boat captain) said, ‘You have enough time, you can stop on it.’”
“We pull up, I make three casts with a 1 1/4-ounce white/chartreuse spinnerbait with gold willow-leaf blades, hook that big fish and I was like ‘This is the one we need,’” he continued. ”We had a decent bag that was about 10 pounds, but that fish helped out our bag a whole lot.” For their Second place finished the team was offered the following scholarships: A $40,000 – ($20,000 per angler) Scholarship offer from Bethel University, a $90,000 ($45,000 per angler) scholarship offer from Kentucky Christian University and a $80,000 ($40,000 per angler) scholarship offer to Simpson University.
In total more than 60 scholarship offers were made to top teams at the event the full list of scholarship offers is below. All teams had to meet eligibility requirements of each schools program and scholarship offers.
Bethel University, $96,000.00 –
Kentucky Christian University – $1,080,000.00 as follows:
$100,000 – (2) 50K scholarship offers to the World Finals winners, $90,000 – (2) 45K scholarship offers to the 2nd & 3rd place team in the World Finals, $80,000 – (2) 40K scholarship offers to the 4th -12th place teams in the World Finals and $80,000 – (2) 40K scholarship offers to the Winners of the National Championship
Simpson University Redding Ca. – $1,620,000.00 as follows:
TOP California teams – $120,000 – (2) 60K Scholarship offers to:
- Top World Finals Team – Ryan Beaty – James Alderman – Alhambra Calif, HS Bulldogs
- Overall Combined weight – Cooper Goff – Nathan Phillips – Lake County Calif, HS
Top 5 western State teams 100,000, (2) 50K Scholarship offers
- CA – Sam West – Sheldon Reese, Lake County HS
- AZ – Taj White – Ethan Ryan, Phoenix HS
- AZ- Weslee Barnes – Jacob Jones, Phoenix HS
- ID – Kyle Mann – Cole Koenig, Lodi HS
- CA – Justin Hurney – Tyler Hurney, Freedom HS Falcons
Additionally, Simpson University also offered the Top 10 places in the World Finals a $80,000- (2) 40K scholarship offers and the Top 16 GPAs in the tournament – $5,000 Scholarship award that is stackable with any of the Simpson U awards above.
TBF & FLW also presented their annual cash scholarship offers of $12,000 & $10,000 respectively, and finally over $40,000 in prizes and sponsor giveaways were awarded at the event.
For complete results, visit HighSchoolFishing.org. The website also offers information on attending or qualifying for the 2020 High School Fishing World Finals and National Championship dual event, which is set for La Crosse, Wisconsin.