For most of us a weekend spent fishing on the lake qualifies as a vacation or a way to escape the daily doldrums of our lives, but for teen-agers Freddie Jenkins and Cody Hudson fishing has lured them onto the national stage.
Over a series of five bass fishing tournaments, spanning from Oct 2018 through May 2019, Jenkins and Hudson qualified for The Bass Federation – Student Angler Federation (TBF-SAF) 10th Annual High School Fishing World Finals and National Championship dual event June 19-22.
“There are usually eight tournaments in a season,” Hudson said. “But this year, because of all the rain and weather, it got cut down to five.”
During the shortened season, the young duo fished their way into the top-10 four out of five tournaments and finished as the third best bass fishing team in the state of Georgia to earn their berth on the big lake, and both boys, along with team mom Sandy Jenkins, were quick to give credit to boat captain, elder brother, Cam Hudson.
Along with an expertise gained through his own fishing career, highlighted by a second-place state finish, the senior Hudson provided the family boat along with transportation to and from most events.
“Without (Cam) taking these boys out, taking his time and energy and, you know, everything else,” Mrs. Jenkins said. “They would not be where they were if it wasn’t for him, I feel like.”
In addition to besting a field of 137 fellow anglers, Jenkins and Hudson occasionally felt like they were in competition with each other as the team worked to combine their five heaviest fish during each tournament and both boys reeled in bass topping the scales at five pounds.
“We both caught the biggest fish,” Jenkins said. “I think mine came in at just over five pounds and his came in at right at five.”
This year’s TBF-SAF tournament takes place on Pickwick Lake in Florence, Alabama, a lake that neither member of the team has fished, and the rules of the tournament will prevent them from fishing prior to their arrival.
“Starting June 9, you can’t touch the water, you can’t be on the water, you can’t get any info, no guides, no nothing,” Jenkins said. “A day before the tournament you can figure out where the bass are again, and then you have the tournament.”
Those rules only apply to the site of the tournament, and Hudson was quick to point out that several lakes in the area are similar to Pickwick and the plan is to pre-fish those lakes to get familiar with the current conditions on the water.
“I would fish Chickamauga Lake, and the lake under it, and see what’s going on,” Hudson said. “If their both on ledges then you know that Pickwick is going to be on ledges.”
According to a TBF-SAF press release this years’ tournament features the largest prize pool in their history with over 2.7 million dollars in prizes and scholarships, and the top 31 teams will advance to compete in the single-day National Championship.
Despite the stakes, neither Jenkins nor Hudson has given serious consideration to pursuing fishing on a professional level, but both have acknowledged that this may be a path to college in their immediate future as more and more colleges have added fishing teams to the curriculum.
“We are looking at which schools have added fishing to their campus,” Mrs. Jenkins said. “Because he is truly, really looking at colleges, and where he wants to go to school to fish.”