The tourism board last week approved a multi-year contract extension to host the pinnacle event in all of High School Fishing, with dates for 2016 already set for June 28-July 2.
Open to all students participating in the Student Angler Federation’s High School Fishing program, the World Finals is the “granddaddy” of all of high school fishing tournaments and the largest open championship in the nation.
Pickwick has already proven a great venue for the event. The 2015 HSF World Finals, held on Pickwick July 8-11, drew 166 two-person teams from 22 states during the four-day competition, held July 8-11.
“We are absolutely thrilled to return to Florence,” said The Bass Federation’s national youth director, Mark Gintert, who orchestrates the Student Angler Federation. “The entire city and staff from the Florence Lauderdale Tourism group were just terrific in 2015, and we look forward to a long relationship working with them.”
Suzie Shoemaker of Florence Lauderdale Tourism said the group is equally ecstatic over the extended partnership.
“We are very excited to bring the High School Fishing World Finals back to Pickwick Lake for multiple years,” she said. “High school anglers will be competing to find the biggest Pickwick Lake bass and take home the title of World Champions!”
Judging by this season’s World Finals results, young anglers will have plenty of great bass fishing options to choose from on Pickwick.
South Carolina’s Derek Freeman and Trevor Callaham won the four-day showdown with daily limits weighing 17-12, 15-8, 15-9 and 20-2. They weighed all largemouths, despite Pickwick’s propensity to produce nice-size smallmouths and spotted bass.
They focused on main-lake ledges primarily in 14 to 23 feet of water. Top presentations included deep-diving crankbaits, ½- to 5/8-ounce hair jigs, drop-shotting 6-inch worms and tipping shaky-head jigs with 10½-inch worms.
Freeman and Callaham earned over $20,000 in college scholarships, prizes and Cabela’s gift cards with their win; $18,000 of that total was in college scholarships, $8,000 to any school of their choice as well as an additional $10,000 if they chose to attend Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee.
The World Finals present one of the most unique and fair formats in competitive fishing today. Competition begins with anglers competing the first two days against teams from their own states. The top two teams from each state then advance on to the semi-final round on day three. Those who did not qualify for the semi-finals are placed in a consolation round, where they have yet another chance to make it to the finals, much like how double-elimination baseball tournaments work.
“Our kids come to fish and we give them different chances to make it all the way,” Gintert explains. “But regardless of where a team finishes, everybody enjoys their time during championship week.”
Designed to give young anglers and their families an all-encompassing, fun-filled experience, the 2015 World Finals also included a pizza party, live concert and catfish banquet—courtesy of the Alabama Cooperative Extension office and the Catfish Growers Association of Alabama—plus a multi-species fishing tournament on day four for all teams who did not make it into the final round.
The SAF’s High School Fishing program is open to all high school-aged students whether public, private, home-schooled or participating in an after-school club. Sponsors include Ranger Boats, Cabela’s, Berkley, Evinrude, Lew’s, Lowrance Electronics, FLW Fishing League Worldwide, Booyah Bait Company, Mud Hole Custom Tackle and Shimano. For more information, visit highschoolfishing.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call: (580) 765-9031.