Senior staff writer
High school sophomores Scott Sledge and Micah Hawkins recently earned an impressive state fishing championship at Lake Monroe.
The anglers captured the Bass Pro Shops FLW High School Fishing Indiana Open trophy Sept. 30 with a five-bass limit weighing in 13 pounds, 4 ounces. Sledge and Hawkins will compete in the 2018 High School Fishing National Championship June 26-30 at Pickwick Lake in Alabama.
Sledge attends Greenwood High; Hawkins is home-schooled.
They caught their limit by fishing with Honey Creek tube bait near rocks and brush 12 feet deep in the upper part of Lake Monroe. Twenty-six teams competed for several hours after leaving the Cutright boat ramp in Bloomington.
The Triton Central High School duo of Aidan Huffman and Josh Milligan finished second with a three-bass catch of 9 pounds and was the only other team to qualify for the national.
The championship pair’s familiarity with Lake Monroe was an asset in winning the trophies. They had scoped out their “home lake” one month earlier.
“You have to be confident of the place you select,” Sledge said. “At most tournaments we have to pick a site on the day before it begins. We look at the depth, water temperature, a certain structure and, of course, where the fish are hungry.”
The teens have been fishing together competitively for more than a year, meeting when Sledge stopped in Honey Creek Bait and Tackle, 2380 N. State Road 135, Bargersville.
The more experienced Sledge is a two-time individual champion of the Indiana Bass Pro Shops State Federation tournament at Lakes Monroe and Winamac. They won the northern division as middle school competitors in the Bass Pro Shops World Championships last year.
Sledge began fishing at age 3 with his Uncle Kenny Swint of Bargersville. Five years later he entered his first age-group competition at Lake Monroe and won, garnering $10 and a new fishing pole.
“It was a kids, tourney but I was hooked after that,” said Sledge with no pun intended. “It was cool that I got a new pole and even won some money.”
The tourney at Lake Monroe last month ended the high school team fishing season for the year.
Sledge also plays football for Greenwood and shows Appaloosa horses nationally at Ponies of America competitions. He began showing at the Johnson County 4-H and Agricultural Fair in Franklin after encouragement from his mother, Joan.
Hawkins began fishing three years ago around various ponds in Johnson and Morgan counties.
“You never really know about fishing,” Hawkins said of the tourneys. “You have to know what you’re doing. We knew going in there would only be two teams to qualify for nationals, so that made it a real challenge.”
Hawkins, who lives in Morgantown, recalled that they caught their five biggest fish early in the tourney at Lake Monroe, never knowing they had the championship catch until returning to the dock.
The tourney was organized through The Bass Federation, a member of the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. The federation is a grassroots fishing, youth and conservation organization that conducts more than 20,000 events yearly.