Jasper, Tx- Jan. 15th... 

Unseasonably warm temps and drizzly overcast skies greeted nearly 1000 young anglers and 500 captains from around Southeast Texas to open up the 4th season of the FORD SETX HS Fishing Association Championship Series presented by Skeeter Boats. "We wanted to condense our schedule down this year to avoid the problems with fish care in the warmer months and to get our championship in before school lets out for summer, but that meant having to schedule a January tournament, which we had never attempted before. You never know what January will bring in East Texas when it comes to weather, so we are quite thankful that it turned out this way", said SETX President Clint Fountain of Kirbyville. 

A new season brings new challenges. "Our biggest obstacle as an organization is simply meeting the increasing demand of a rapidly growing sport", said Tournament Director Bryan Thomas of Lumberton. "We are always looking to better the experience for our kids, captains, sponsors, and spectators and that takes some foresight", continued Thomas. One thing everyone will notice is the new weigh trailer and the soon to be onsite live release trailer which is still in fabrication. "Obviously, we felt we had outgrown the previous trailer which had been borrowed for the last 3 years. The live release trailer will give us some options down the road as well. We could not have purchased these items without the tremendous support of our annual raffle and our sponsors." concluded Thomas. 

Also new for 2017, the "conservation tent", sponsored by V&M baits and Whataburger. So what is the "conservation tent" for? We asked VP Tom Selman of Port Neches. "We are always looking for better ways to minimize our impact on the lake", said Selman. "We get a lot of small stringers crossing the stage (typically 1 and 2 fish) and those kids rarely, if ever, have the chance to crack the top 50 and get a check. With the conservation program, those kids now have a choice to photograph those fish on the water, release them immediately and save themselves and the fish a long trip through the weigh in line. Once back, the kids simply present their photo at the conservation tent, where they will then receive a ticket for a drawing worth $500!! It is a win-win for everyone and we hope our kids and captains will utilize this resource" concluded Selman. 

As for the fishing, well as usual, Big Sam rarely disappoints. Fishing the day after Bass Champs opened its season with 400 teams probing the waters of Rayburn would not be easy, but Tournament Director/Emcee John Salamone said this. "We have some tremendous young anglers and captains. Typically, the numbers of fish will be down this time of year, but at the same time, this time of year can produce some giants as they move into their pre spawn haunts. Someone will find them!"


First Place- 18.79 LBS/ Lumberton HS/Jared Goebel and Bryce Roder/ Boat Captain- John Goebel

Sometimes eliminating unproductive water is as important as finding productive water. That is exactly what the Lumberton team of Goebel and Roder did as part of their pre fishing strategy. "We found a lot of smaller fish the further south we went. Although not as abundant, the mid lake area seemed to hold more quality fish for us" said Captain John Goebel. Launching at Jackson Hill, the team started their morning fishing deep water ledges with carolina rigged soft plastics in the 20-25 foot range around the 147 mid lake area. "By 8:45, the boys had a decent limit of fish" said Goebel. As the day began to warm, the team began focusing on shallower targets, rotating between 3 and 4 spots. "We were betting on timing and being there when the fish would start feeding, so rotating those 3 to 4 spots paid off" concluded Goebel. Timing proved to be everything as the team was able to cull up several times during the day by throwing square bills and soft plastics in the 2-6 foot range. The team wished to thank Lumberton team advisor Bryan Thomas for all of his efforts, Cheniere Energy for their support of the LHS Fishing team, Mr Troy Roder for the weekend lodging, and all the SETX volunteers who make SETX the best HS Fishing organization in the country.


Second Place- 18.12 LBS/Livingston HS/Breckett Long and Ryan McGarrahan/ Boat Captain- Hec Long

Experience goes a long way. Just ask the Livingston team of Long and McGarrahan from Livingston HS. "These boys have had a pretty good couple of weeks on Big Sam. They won a high school event last weekend with a little over 20 LBS and that experience went a long way in today's success as well" said Captain Hec Long. Launching at Monterrey Park Sunday morning, the team focused on deep water ledges and drop offs in the 23-28 foot range, using carolina rigged worms. When asked about any trade secrets, Capt Long was pretty tight lipped, but he did say the team was very patient and worked the baits very slow to get their bites. A limit came around 8:30 and the boys were able to cull up throughout the day. "The boys were very focused and patient. Their patience paid off in a big way." concluded Capt. Long. 


Third Place- 17.87 LBS/West Sabine HS/ Brett Primrose and Madison Stancomb/ Boat Captain- Jason Hanks

Staying with the deep water ledge pattern was the West Sabine team of Primrose and Stancomb from West Sabine HS. Having launched in the Harvey Creek area, the team from West Sabine began their day, like many others, focusing on deep ledges around the 147 bridge area. Not finding the fish they needed early, the team changed plans and moved shallow. "That was when we started catching fish", said Capt Jason Hanks. "The boys were able to work a shallow grass flat with a gold colored jerk bait worked very slow over the grass to catch their near 18 LB bag." Capt Hanks reported a limit by 9:30 am and culling up throughout the day. The team wished to thank both Crystal and William Muncrief for their efforts with the WS Bass Team and all the SETX volunteers who make this possible. 


Rounding out the top Ten

4th Place- 16.56 LBS- Randy Wistner and Jace Mattingley- Nederland HS

5th Place- 16.31 LBS- Brennon Davis and Bret Herrin- Kirbyville HS

6th Place- 16.10 LBS- Emilea Stark and Chely Waggoner- Kirbyville HS

7th Place (TIE)- 16.01 LBS- Kaleb Barnett and Hunter Martindale- Jasper HS

7th Place (TIE)- 16.01 LBS- Kaden Duncan and Randy Abate- Bridge City HS

9th Place- 15.90 LBS- Tyler Faulk and Kyle Stegall- PNG HS 

10th Place- 15.74 LBS- Hunter Muncrief and Landen Mccary- West Sabine HS


Top 3 Big Bass

1st- 7.74 LBS- Kaleb Barnett and Hunter Martindale- Jasper HS

2nd- 7.50 LBS- Micah Satir and Jaxson Bernard- Bridge City HS

3rd- 7.39 LBS- Mason Arnaud and Reed Hudspeth- PNG HS


The SETX board wanted to make sure they sent out many THANKS to the all the volunteers who helped last Sunday. Your time and your patience is absolutely necessary for the success of this organization. We simply cannot thank all of you enough for your efforts. THANK YOU ALL.

Lastly, the board wanted to make sure that all of you take the time to go by the many sponsor booth's at the tournaments and say "HI" and "thank you" for supporting the young anglers of Southeast Texas. As always, please remember these companies when it comes time to make your own personal purchases!! They are supporting us, so please support them. When out and about, let these people know you support them because they support SETX HS Fishing. 

THANK YOU TO ALL OF THE SETX SPONSORS for helping make SETX the premiere HS Fishing Trail in the country!!!

South Texas Ford Dealers Assn, Skeeter Boats/Yamaha, Tackle Addict, Costa, Lews, Coastal Field Services, Academy, 6th Sense, Livingston Lures, Rat L Trap, Gopher Industries, Culprit, Bass Cash Bash, Winn Grips, Big Bite Baits, V&M Lures, Happy Trails RV's, Stubb's Cycle, Whataburger, Gator Guards, Southeast Texas Starter, A-1 Glass, Crystal Heigley and the Allman Real Estate Team, and Obsessed with Nature Taxidermy.

For full results, or more information about all of our sponsors, please visit www.setxhighschoolfishing.com or visit our facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/setxhighschoolfishing/


Story by Jet Donovan