Baldwin County anglers return from fourth straight nationals trip

This year’s team already creating roadmap toward a fifth consecutive qualification

By Cole McNanna
Sports Editor
cole@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 8/30/22

The Baldwin County High School fishing team has had a representative at the last four Bassmaster High School National Championships, but this year’s team was different for a few reasons.

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Baldwin County anglers return from fourth straight nationals trip

This year’s team already creating roadmap toward a fifth consecutive qualification

Posted

The Baldwin County High School fishing team has had a representative at the last four Bassmaster High School National Championships, but this year’s team was different for a few reasons.

Not only were the four duos the largest group head coach John Black has taken to nationals, but they were also able to share information back at the house to prepare for the next day. Plus, they benefitted from all the extra practice and camaraderie built up.

“A lot of it has come from them coming up together since eighth grade. They’ve just been with the program the whole time and they’ve been paying their dues,” Black said Friday, Aug. 26. “They clicked together, they worked together and when they weren’t fishing a tournament, they were on the lake here at home fishing. They were hanging out together, they bonded.”

Recent graduate Chance Bryars agreed that connection helped them go the distance.

“This year, what helped us a lot was that we had a good group of guys,” Bryars said. “We all fished as a team and worked together and that really helped us get to nationals, was being a big team.”

In the overall standings at the national championship in South Carolina, Hunter Travis and Jameson Norris finished 48th, Brody Lineberry and Ryan Wright finished 201st, Conner Lanham and Jed Defee registered 223rd and Chance and Noah Bryars came in 251st overall. Many agreed the highlight of the trip was indeed kicking back and hanging out at the house.

“My favorite was the sleeping part after being on that lake all day,” Lineberry said. “We did have fun back at the house swimming and hanging out talking about our fishing trip, but that sleep was nice when we got back there.”

Of course, there was work to be done first and the team knocked out their strategy for the next day as well.

“It helped us eliminate some decisions we had. We had teams going teams and deep and going shallow, the teams going deep weren’t catching anything so that helped us get us down to the depths we needed to be fishing,” Defee said.

That natural progression is just one part of the pedigree of the program that has led to consistent collegiate fishing opportunities.

“Out of four seniors, I’ve got three going to college and two of them were not going to college at the beginning of the season. (Not even for education), they were going to work,” Black said. “Going through this year and the season, they had it change their direction, so Ryan is now going to school with (Chance) at Bishop and Noah signed a scholarship to Faulkner.”

It was not the first time that fishers from Bay Minette were recognized, nor will it likely be the last.

After the four pairs all secured their spots in the national tournament, Gov. Kay Ivey reached out with a personal letter to the 35 Alabamian teams that represented a chunk of the 316 total teams competing.

“It was really cool, I want to say a big thanks to Kay Ivey for sending us a letter,” Norris said. “That was really special to us and it was really fun to represent up there.”

They were already rockstars in their own city and that was evidenced by an escort from the Bay Minette Fire and Police Departments out of town on their way to the national tournament.

“I felt really honored getting escorted by the police,” Lanham said. “Running all the red lights was really fun and having all my family there to support me, that made me feel good.”

Black said that Norris, Travis, Lanham, Defee and the new teams have all already started the preparations for a fifth consecutive trip to nationals.

“We’ll put our heads down and just fish hard,” Travis said of the plan. “We’ll try to make it through the wiregrass trail this year instead of fishing in the opens, so we’ll be looking to get first place in Angler of the Year in wiregrass.”

“Now we’ve got a lot more information on these lakes and we’ve gotten a lot better since our freshman years so hopefully we can be leaders on this team and step up and make it there,” Norris said.

They’ll look to do just that while carrying on the tradition of the Baldwin County fishing team that has seen its impact throughout the school system.

“I’ve had parents sending me pictures and screenshots from essays of their little kids in third and fourth grade talking about how when they grow up, they want to be on the fishing team,” Black said. “It’s special when you can make an impact on a town like that. The fishing team has given us that outlet to do that.”

Chance made sure to thank Black for his contributions and confirmed his involvement with the team helped him in life.

“It was a good thing for us to get to go up there and represent Coach John,” Chance said. “He made me a whole better man being with him for four years, and being with these guys I’ve also learned a lot for myself.”

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