Hunter Bridges and Brannan Rippey overcame a lack of sleep and less-than-ideal fishing conditions to win the Timmy Horton High School Bass Anglers Challenge on Pickwick Lake Oct. 12.
Bridges and Rippey, who play football for the Mars Hill Panthers, did not get home until around 11 p.m. following their game against Central the night before the tournament. Both were up early the following morning and on the water before 6 a.m., preparing for the launch of the tournament from Sheffield’s Riverfront Park. To make matters worse, a cold front that moved through the Shoals overnight had sent temperatures plummeting into the upper 30s by the time the tournament began.
Rippey and Bridges persevered over being tired and cold to catch five bass weighing 20 pounds to win the tournament and collect $7,500 in college scholarships. Parker Riggs and Mary Staggs of Summertown (Tenn.) High School, finished in second place with 14.73 pounds, winning $4,000 in scholarships. Fisher Heard and Troy Bates, of Lauderdale County High School, were third with 13.95 pounds and won $4,000 in scholarships.
“I was hoping we would have a good tournament, but I wasn’t expecting this at all,” Rippey said. “We had caught a few fish last Saturday while practicing for this tournament, but nothing big. Fortunately, we were to find some big ones today.” Their catch was anchored by a 5.44-pound largemouth bass, which was the largest fish caught during the tournament. They won $1,000 for having the biggest bass of the tournament.
Bridges said he and Rippey, both juniors at Mars Hill, have been friends since the fifth grade, but have only fished bass tournaments together for about a year. “When we started fishing together, we just jelled. Brannan is a great fishing partner.”
Horton, a professional angler and outdoors television personality from Muscle Shoals, commended Bridges and Rippey for their catch. “To catch 20 pounds in a tournament on Pickwick Lake in October on the backside of a cold front is amazing. When a cold front rolls through in the fall, it really knocks the fishing back for a couple of days. For them to come out here and have a catch like this in conditions like these is absolutely amazing.”
More than 100 student anglers from as far away as Minnesota competed in the tournament that was organized by Colbert County Tourism and Convention Bureau.
Anglers in high school bass tournaments fish from boat piloted by an adult that is not allowed to fish. Bridges and Rippey’s boat captain for the tournament was Jade Keeton, a Mars Hill Bible School alumni and avid outdoorsman.
Rounding out the top five teams in the tournament were Ethan Tedder and Nathan Whitehead of Muscle Shoals Trojans Bass Anglers with 13.74 pounds and Brodie Montgomery and John Kelly of Central High School with 13.69 pounds.
Highlights from the tournament will be shown on the Timmy Horton Outdoors television show on the Pursuit Channel in the spring.