ANDERSON, S.C. — Kale Temple and Luke Schnell were only 4 ounces out of the Day 1 lead at the 2023 Bassmaster Junior National Championship, so they knew a good finish on Lake Hartwell might lock up the tournament title for them.
Temple and Schnell, who compete for the Hart County Junior Anglers just across the state line in Georgia, closed the gap with authority on Saturday, catching a three-bass limit of 10 pounds, 15 ounces. Coupled with their 10-13 limit on Friday, the boys posted a two-day total of 21-12, which was nearly 4 pounds more than their closest competitors.
The duo topped 123 teams from 32 states for the win on Lake Hartwell. They earned $2,000 in scholarship money, as well.
Being on their home water didn’t hurt their chances, but Temple and Schnell had to work from behind to win the derby. Their early bites on Saturday weren’t exactly the best, either.
“The water levels today were about 2 feet low,” Temple said. “We knew the shallow bite wouldn’t work, so we went offshore all day. Still, we only had about 5 pounds until about 11:30 or 12 o’clock. That’s when the fish started schooling and we were able to get a 4-pounder and a couple of 3-pounders.”
The boys said a bright and busy Saturday brought additional boat traffic to Hartwell, which actually helped their cause.
“There was a poker run today with about 400 pontoon boats,” Temple said. “All the boats stirred the bait up and the bass started coming up.”
Temple and Schnell, both 14, fished in anywhere from 10 to 35 feet of water, but the sweet spot was between 20 to 30 feet on Saturday. They threw Zoom Fluke worms (smoke/blue and disco ball) to boat their best bass.
“We’d fished this spot before,” Schnell said. “There’s a lot of shallow timber and the fish were in the tops of the trees … It’s amazing to win because we didn’t think we’d accomplish it with what we had at 11 o’clock.”
Isaac Temple, Kale’s dad and the duo’s boat captain for the tournament, said the teens put the work in to win the national title.
“They fished nonstop, including all the weekends that weren’t off limits,” he said. “They won Junior Anglers of the Year for the state of Georgia, so being on their home lake, I knew they’d be contenders.”
Colton Hembree and Tyson Browning of Kentucky’s Bluegrass Junior Bassmasters finished second with 18-2 and won $1,000 in scholarship money.
Tristan Stewart and DJ Johnson III, in first place after Day 1, wound up third with 17-10 and collected $500 in scholarship money. The duo is part of the Mt. Pleasant (Tenn.) Junior Bass Team.
Anderson Mesplay and Kelby Conrady, of the Mid-Kansas Kastmasters, also caught 17-10 and placed fourth after tiebreakers. The boys earned $400 for their showing and also split the $200 Big Bass Award for the 6-7 largemouth they caught on Saturday. That whopper easily topped Hembree and Browning’s 4-14 which led the Day 1 Big Bass standings.
Teams qualified for the championship through state competitions and four different Junior Opens held earlier this year on Florida’s Harris Chain of Lakes, Alabama’s Lay Lake, Tennessee’s Chickamauga Lake and the Red River in Louisiana.
Visit Anderson hosted the Bassmaster Junior National Championship.
2023 Bassmaster Junior Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
2023 Bassmaster Junior Series Premier Sponsors: Bass Pro Shops, Dakota Lithium, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Progressive Insurance, Ranger Boats, Rapala, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha
2023 Bassmaster Junior Series Supporting Sponsors: AFTCO, Daiwa, Garmin, Lew’s, Marathon, Triton Boats, VMC
2023 Bassmaster Junior Series Youth Sponsors: 13 Fishing, Seaguar, Shimano
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