Over the past few years, the high school fishing scene has blossomed into a highly competitive league with significant scholarships and awards on the line.
Brothers Brycen and Landon Williamson, ages 17 and 14 respectively, have been fishing off and on with their father their whole lives. They only got serious about the sport this year and have already made a big splash.
The duo won the team award of Anglers of the Year for the 2018-19 season on the South Carolina Palmetto Boat Center High School Team Trail.
Like other high school sports, competitive fishing teams are often affiliated with a specific school and training is received through the coaches in that program.
In Brycen and Landon’s case, mentoring comes primarily from their father, Jason Williamson, who has been an Elite Series angler on the Bassmaster Tournament Trail for 13 years.
Since high school bass fishing is relatively new, there are no fishing programs in the local high schools. The brothers compete with the Aiken Youth Bassmasters team. Aiken Youth Bassmasters is a high school level team run by their father and is looking to add members.
“Anytime you can get a teenager away from an (electronics) screen and into the outdoors, they’ve got a much better shot at success,” Jason said. “There’s so much dedication and preparation that goes into these competitions. Instead of being distracted by video games or parties on a Friday night, these kids are getting their fishing lines ready and practicing out on the lake for days beforehand.”
The Palmetto Boat Center has a following of about 250 boats on average that regularly enter these competitions. That means that each time Brycen and Landon competed this past season, they went up against about 500 competitors since each boat consists of a team of two anglers. The brothers never finished a competition worse than eighth and had two second-place finishes during their season. Their win of Anglers of the Year was “by a pretty wide margin” according to Jason.
While Anglers of the Year is a team award, each boy received a trophy and scholarship money.
“We went into it all as a learning experience with pretty low expectations,” said the boys’ father. “But it just kind of turned out this way, and we couldn’t be more pleased.”