UPCOMING EVENT: Costa FLW Series - 2019 - Santee Cooper

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Kiefer’s Tolle, Hale Win World Finals

Kiefer’s Tolle, Hale Win World Finals
Jeremy Tolle & Garrett Hale

They don’t see much of that steep drop-off stuff in their eastern Oklahoma fisheries, but you wouldn’t know that from watching Jeremy Tolle and Garrett Hale dominate the final round of the 2018 Student Angler Federation High School Fishing World Finals with a five-bass limit that weighed 23 pounds, 9 ounces. Edging their closest competitors by 3-11, the Kiefer High School juniors received a pair of $28,000 scholarships to Bethel University.

“This is the best moment of my life,” Tolle says.

“It’s great; I’ve never had anything this big,” adds Hale.

Along with 383 other high school teams, Tolle and Hale competed for three qualifying days, which ran concurrently with the 2018 High School Fishing National Championship, won by Kyler McKie and Chad Champy. Thirty-one teams fished in Saturday’s final round, when all weights were zeroed.

The pathway to the final round was a roller-coaster ride for Tolle and Hale, but the latter says persistence and prudent planning proved essential to their success.

“The key was just staying with it,” Hale says. “We only had 13 pounds the first day. We came in with 9 the second day, and we had almost 18 the third day. We found our fish late in the day [on day three], but we stayed off of them because we knew they’d probably be back there. We came in today and caught all of our weight in an hour and a half to two hours.”

The winning sack included a 7-plus largemouth that won Big Bass honors. That one was the winning team’s second fish of the day.

Tolle says he and his partner caught their fish in 20 to 25 feet of water on ledges with shell beds near the Pickwick Dam.

“The bluegill feed on the stuff on the shell beds, so those big bass love to hang around there to swallow them up,” he says.

Hale adds that he and Tolle fished gradual drop-offs during day one, but they quickly realized that sharper breaks were where they’d find the tournament winners.

Their bait of choice was Tolle’s homemade 1-ounce brown/black football-head jig with a green pumpkin/purple twin-tail trailer. They committed to the heavy football jig because it allowed them to remain in contact with the bottom and create the kind of display that impressed big fish.

“It gets down, and it bounces off those rocks and helps get those fish to react to it,” Hale says. “You could tell when the fish were just starting to school up and get ready to feed because you’d barely feel them tap it – like they would barely have it on the edge of their lips. But when they would get schooled up, they would just hammer it. That 7-15 almost pulled the rod out of my hand.”

As Hale notes, effective hooksets in deep water require well-balanced tackle. The winners fished their football heads on 7-6 heavy Quantum EXO rods with Quantum baitcasters loaded with 20-pound-test Seaguar fluorocarbon.

Despite three days of heavy fishing pressure, Pickwick showcased its fish-rich reputation with 19 of the finalists catching limits. It took 15-04 to make the top 10, and second-place anglers Gerald Brumbaugh and Hunter Klotz of Central High School came within 2 ounces of breaking 20 pounds.

Klotz says the increase in current at midday stimulated fish and led them to the productive period that produced his team’s 19-14. As Brumbaugh explains, dialing in their bait selection moved them toward the quality bites.

“We started out throwing drop-shots on the first day, and we figured out that bait caught small fish, so we realized we needed to use bigger baits,” he says. “We switched to a spoon and a big Carolina rig, and that seemed to get the bigger fish out of the school.”

Klotz and Brumbaugh used a 1 1/2-ounce silver flutter spoon. They fitted the Carolina rigs with a 3/4- to 1-ounce weight and a Zoom Brush Hog or an 8-inch lizard.

“The spoon produced best. That’s what caught our biggest bass. It weighed 7-1,” Brumbaugh notes. “It bit right away. It was our second fish at about 8 o’clock.”

Third place went to Cort Walker and Lawson Tilghman of Hardin County High School, who weighed a limit of 17-08. Walker and Tilghman led day one with the event’s heaviest catch – a 25-pound, 1-ounce limit. Their hefty sack was anchored by a 10-pound, 8-ounce fish that ended up being the biggest bass of all four days.

 

World Finals top 10

1. Jeremy Tolle and Garrett Hale, Kiefer High School – 23-09 (5 fish)

2. Gerald Brumbaugh and Hunter Klotz, Central High School – 19-14 (5 fish)

3. Cort Walker and Lawson Tilghman, Hardin County High School – 17-08 (5 fish)

4. Luke Mchan and Blake Cobb, Fannin Fishing Club – 17-00 (5 fish)

5. Jerren Gieske and Austin Clanton, Lawrence County – 16-03 (5 fish)

6. Will Daniels and Kade Suratt, Lawrence County High School – 16-01 (5 fish)

7. Dawson Barnett and Holden Dennis, Mansfield – 15-15 (5 fish)

8. Easton Fothergill and Alex Timm, Grand Rapids – 15-08 (5 fish)

9. Camden Slone and Caleb Hurst, Danville Christian Academy – 15-06 (5 fish)

10. Andrew Douglas and Allen Mullins, Calloway County – 15-04 (5 fish)

Complete results

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