By Joe Grafeman
High school fishing has really taken off over the last couple years.
I feel blessed to be a part of it. I fished my first tournament when I was 12. It was the Big Bass Bash at Lake of the Ozarks and I got a check. From that day forward I was hooked on tournament fishing. I am now a senior attending School of the Osage in Lake Ozark, Mo.
It is amazing how much my family has supported me. When I started high school they moved me to the Lake of the Ozarks so I could fish.
In 2015 I was on the first-ever Bassmaster High School All-American team. That was an honor but a long process to get there. To be an All-American you have to be nominated to be on the team. Through a panel of judges, they select the All-State team based on resumes and stuff like that. The All-State team is two anglers from each state. They then have to narrow that down to the Top 12 in the nation. I was very fortunate and blessed to be a part of the team.
A Bassmaster high school tournament for the 12 All-Americans was held the same time as the BASSfest event last year on Kentucky Lake. The pros who didn’t make the BASSfest cut volunteered to take us out and fish for a day on Lake Barkley. I got to fish with Clifford Pirch.
That event was awesome. I went down a week early and prefished. When I got down there we fished the southern part of Barkley and everything looked the same. To catch good fish, you had to fish something not obvious. We fished the ledges at the mouth of the little sloughs that came out of the main river.
The fishing pressure was really heavy in the area so I found out that a shaky head worked best. I found this pattern in practice and it payed big dividends in the tournament for me. We had a 12-pound limit and finished in third place.
What an honor it was, anyone in the tournament had already won because every one of us contenders was an All- American. At the very end of the tournament I caught the fifth fish. It was not a big one so I knew it would not help. With about 15 minutes left to fish I caught a 4-pounder. This was a huge upgrade and made our bag.
Congrats to all the All-Americans in the tournament. It was such a great learning experience fishing with Pirch. He was like a book of information. I had so much fun and learned so much on that day. Thank you B.A.S.S for putting on such a great event. The whole week that I was down there I was star-struck from eating dinner with Carl Jocumsen and talking to Brandon Palaniuk at the boat ramp. It was all a great experience.