Fifty-six teams traveled to compete in the 2018 Ohio High School State Championship on Saturday, May 12 at Alum Creek for the titles and the coveted spots in the 2018 National Championship. Five teams advanced to the national contest held in conjunction with the High School Fishing World Finals, June 26-30 on Pickwick Lake in Florence, Ala.
Anglers faced a tough Alum Creek and most struggled to find a five fish limit. Four of the top five teams did, however, and it was enough to punch their tickets to nationals. Leading the pack was the Oak Hill High School team of Mitchell Hale and Keaton Potter. Hale and Potter had a limit of bass weighing 9 pounds 11 ounces. The team got on a healthy school of smallmouth during pre-fishing and locked it up tournament dy for the win.
“On our pre-fishing day we started looking for largemouth back in coves because we figured we would need a kicker largemouth for the tournament,” Potter said. “We knew we would need quality size smallmouth to do well in the tournament so that started the hunt for smallmouth. Eventually, we came along a good looking bank for smallmouth, sure enough they were there and we caught a four and 2 three pound smallmouth.”
“We found a couple places that had a good bit of largemouth and left those areas,” Hale said. “After pre-fishing, we were talking to our boat captain about how we need to get in there first thing in the morning and he said, ‘as long as we can get in there.'”
Anglers met for registration, a rules briefing and for boat numbers at the Cabela’s in Columbus, Ohio. “That afternoon we went to sign in for the tournament, you can only imagine our excitement when we were told that we got the 1st boat draw,” Potter said.
“We knew right from there our chances of winning were pretty good,” Hale added.
The pair might had a lucky draw, but luck doesn’t win tournaments, perseverance does. They battled it out all day to get their keepers. “We got three smallmouth in the first 30 minutes in the 2-3 pound range,” the team said. “After about 3-4 hours of just catching short fish we hooked into a decent largemouth back in a cove on a shaky head that was crucial to the bag we had. In the last hour, we caught a 13 inch smallmouth on a ned rig to end the day.”
Hale and Potter weren’t the only Oak Hill anglers to make a statement. Three of top five teams advancing were teammates of the Oak Hill High School fishing team.
“I would like to especially thank Coach Lewis for helping to make this experience possible for me and my teammates,” Potter said. “He and the other boat captains are key factors in this experience. I am very proud of my team mates for having 3 of the top 5 boats. ”
The top five qualified teams are as follows:
Keaton Potter – Mitchell Hale – Oak Hill High School – 5 fish – 9 pounds 11 ounces
Issac Black – Lucas Wildman – Hartley’s Hawgs – 5 fish – 8 pounds 15 ounces
Cameron Smith – Jacob Blackburn – S.S. Minnows – 5 fish – 8 pounds 7 ounces
Hunter Fleming – Collin Hammond – Oak Hill High School – 4 fish – 7 pounds 12 ounces
Noah Donley – Isaac Morgan – Oak Hill High School – 5 fish – 7 pounds 3 ounces