BUCHANAN, Tenn. — Today, two Mynderse Academy students will be casting their lines into Kentucky Lake in search of some elusive bass.
This is not a typical summer vacation fishing trip for incoming freshman Brody Herron, 14, and recent graduate C.J. Zerniak, 18. The two members of the Mynderse Academy Bass Fishing Club qualified earlier this year for the Bassmaster High School Championship by placing first in points in the New York State B.A.S.S. (Bass Anglers Sportsmen Society) Nation High School Team Trail series.
The Mynderse team is among about 300 high school teams competing. Today is their first day of competition, but they got a taste of the challenge ahead during practice rounds earlier this week on the 184-mile long lake — a man-made reservoir.
On Tuesday, the boys and their captain/coach Mike Morrin (husband of Seneca Falls Middle School teacher Mel Morrin) awoke at 4:30 a.m. to get out on the lake by 6 a.m. By early afternoon the outdoor temperature was 90 degrees and the water temperature was about 85, said Morrin.
“It’s hot and it’s pretty and it’s beautiful down here, but the fishing is tough,” he said.
The day before, the trio took to the waters elsewhere on the lake and landed eight bass but only two that were of legal limit (15 inches or more). On Tuesday they trailered to the lake’s opposite end to test the waters (and different lures) there.
Kentucky Lake “is not even close” to Cayuga Lake, the duo’s training ground. It has no grasses or milfoil, Morrin said.
Zerniak described is as “ginormous.”
“One creek is as big as Cayuga Lake,” he said. “But it’s fun; it’s a learning experience.”
Zerniak said the conditions are challenging and it will probably be the hardest tournament he and Herron ever fish.
“We knew it was gonna be tough but I didn’t think it was going to be this bad,” he said, noting he’s heard bass fishing has been difficult in Kentucky Lake the past few years. He surmised perhaps it was the warm water temperature as well as the influx of Asian carp.
“That’s a big part of it,” he said.
The families of both young men are on hand for the tournament.
Today, the team awoke at 3 a.m. to get on line for launching by 4 a.m. All boats depart from the same spot and given there are 300 teams, it’s a long line. The launching spots are determined randomly and today the Mynderse team was the 18th boat in the water; tomorrow they will be the 282nd.
The competition is today and tomorrow, with weigh-in at 3 p.m. each day. After Friday the field is cut to 12 and the tournament champion is crowned at the end of fishing on Saturday.
The tournament has taken off in the past five years, Morrin said. In 2013 there were 60 teams competing compared to this year’s 300; the trio has seen license plates from Alabama, Texas, Florida, Illinois and Minnesota.
Whether the Mynderse team makes it to the final 12 remains to be seen, but both young men know it’s an honor and and experience to have even qualified for nationals.
Zerniak said patience will be the key to a good showing.
“If you get down on yourself you won’t want to fish anymore,” he said. “You have to keep your morale high.”