May 12, 2018 will be a date two young high school anglers will never forget. Sam McNew and McKinley Prickett of the Alexandria High School Fishing Team won the Alabama B.A.S.S. Nation State High School Championship on Alabama’s Neely Henry Lake with a second, and last day, surge. The high school state champions brought a total weight of 30.10 lbs. to the scales for the two days of competition.
Both team members knew the fishing conditions on Neely Henry could change from day to day. Sam McNew said, “We had a plan in place before the two day championship since the tournament was on our home lake of Neely Henry. On day one we caught fish all day, but not any size. We ended up with five fish weighing almost 11 lbs.” Team partner McKinley Prickett said about day two, “We knew the big fish had to be there, so we just had to be persistent and stick to the plan. We gave it to God and trusted what He had planned for us…win or lose. About 9 a.m. that morning we knew it was going to be a special day because we had around 14 lbs. and still kept culling. “Special” included a 4.86 pound kicker fish.
McKinley said, “Being on the fishing team with many of the same guys for 6 years has created an amazing bond between us. We share our fish stories and laugh together after we all weigh-in at a tournament.” McNew added, “We have been successful because of the amazing talent on the team. Most of the anglers have been together for six years. We all put in hard work and our team works out a plan for each lake prior to the tournament. We all have the passion for the sport of fishing.”
Prickett and McNew are high school seniors and knew the Alabama B.A.S.S. Nation State High School Championship of 2018 was their last opportunity to win the title. Prickett lamented, “Ever since we began fishing on the high school team in the seventh grade we have tried to make it to the nationals. We knew this was our last shot! On Friday, we couldn’t do anything right. We stayed hung up in trees and caught over 20 fish that didn’t measure. But, we ended up with a 5 fish limit of 11 pounds.”
McNew’s take on the team’s strategy was, “We both realized that the lake was tough that weekend with the blue bird skies and being post spawn. We adapted to those conditions and were ready for day two. We gave it to God and slowed down our pace and threw finesse baits.”
“…that morning we knew it was going to be a special day because we had around 14 lbs. and still kept culling.”
McNew and Prickett used the same strategy on both days and did not waiver much from their plans. The strategy included fishing a frog in grass and fishing rocky banks, laydowns and stumps. There were only three rods on the deck of the boat. Prickett said they had to slow down their fishing and went to shakey head worms and jigs in two to fifteen feet of water.
McNew said, “The special finesse bait was a NetBait, T-mac June bug worm. For the 4.86 lb. fish I used a Shimano Curado 200e7 paired with a Powell Max 3D 7’7” Mag Heavy spooled with 20 lb. Seaguar Invizx line for pitching. My pitching lure was a watermelon red Strike King Rage Craw targeted at the most dense covering I could find.”
And what does it mean to these high school seniors to be the Alabama B.A.S.S. Nation State High School Champions. McNew said, “It was a very humble experience that I will never forget. First of all, my accomplishments are not possible without God. I have a very strong family support system that has been with me all the way. I am very thankful for them.” Prickett had a similar take saying, “The championship means a lot to me. I have always dreamed of being a state champion and now it has come true. To be able to win the tournament on our home lake surrounded by all of my family and friends was extra special.
Both of the young anglers noted that most of the members of their high school fishing team had been together for six years. All the team members have a passion for the sport of fishing according to the new champions. Prickett said, “It’s definitely a brotherhood that I will never forget.”
The boat captain for both days was Lane McNew. Lane is the father of the angler, Sam McNew. Lane has been the boat captain for these anglers since their seventh grade year in school. At times, the boat captain position was shared with Matt Prickett, McKinley’s dad.
The winning duo is elated to be representing not only their high school, but the state of Alabama in the national championship on Kentucky Lake.
Prickett and McNew accomplished their first goal of winning the Alabama B.A.S.S. Nation State High School Championship. Now, they have their sights set on the B.A.S.S. Nation National High School Championship.Maybe some of the skills of their favorite pros, Gerald Swindle and Justin Lucas, has rubbed off on them.
– Ron McDonald
Southern Fishing News