In late June, MISD Fishing Team Members Fallon Clepper and Wyatt Ford won the Bass Federation Student Angler Federation National Championship held in Alabama at Lake Pickwick. Doing so, Fallon and Wyatt became the first Co-Ed Team to win the National Title, making Fallon the First Female Angler to hold the title, National Champion. To understand how Historic this accomplishment was, let’s look at the journey these two, along with their Captain Julian Clepper took to get there.
First, Fallon and Wyatt qualified by winning the Bass Federation event held on Lake Conroe back in March. They along with 6 other Teams from Texas qualified through different TBF Tournaments held around the State, all earning their spots in the National Championship.
These 7 Texas Teams descended into this fray in Alabama, where they found that there were going to be 276 Teams from all around the Country, which had earned their right to compete for the coveted National Title as well. Unbelievable odds, but this Team from Montgomery Texas are seasoned veterans of these High School Fishing Battles.
Fallon and Wyatt busted onto the scene their Freshman year 3 years ago, winning the Anglers of the Year in the highly competitive Houston Division of the Texas High School Bass Association. This means that they bested over 160 Individual Teams from 28 High Schools and Programs in the Houston Area. This Team also holds the distinction of qualifying for 3 Regional Championships, as well as being two time State Qualifiers. They have been an integral part of the domination the MISD Fishing Team has enjoyed in the Houston Division, winning the Conference Title all three years that this pair has attended Lake Creek High School.
This Team approached this tournament in the same manner that they do for all the tournaments that they participate in. Their Captain Julian Clepper explained that “we analyzed Navionic Maps, looking for the obvious spots, but more specifically, possible spots that others would overlook.” Knowing that they were going to be competing for 3 days in the biggest Tournament of their lives, Fallon and Wyatt spent a lot of time studying maps and gathering information from which they would formulate their plan, and what a plan they came up with.
In Pre-Practice, which must take place 30 days prior to the event, the trio ran all over the lake looking at their spots. They meticulously graphed their selected locations with their electronics and fished, looking to eliminate unproductive areas, and to come up with what they felt were enough good areas to last for a multiple day tournament. They also were developing which baits were most productive, thus developing a pattern. They felt this tournament would be won off shore, and they keyed in on ridges of the river channel where stumps were present in 15 to 22 feet of water.
Then during official practice where all the Teams are allowed on the water prior to the event, they further developed both their areas, along with which baits they were going to use. The most productive areas that they found were mainly a 44 plus mile boat run from the Tournament Headquarters. The bait that this pair became confident with was a trick worm in watermelon red and green, rigged on a 5/8 ounce shaky head. They were using mainly a 6’8” medium fast St. Croix rods, paired with Shimano reels, and spooled with 12 pound fluorocarbon line.
The first day of the tournament couldn’t have gone better as after their 44 mile boat run, Fallon and Wyatt were able to boat a 3 fish limit fairly quickly. In fact, they had their limit in the live well before 7:45. It wasn’t much longer after having their limit, that Wyatt struck pay dirt with a 6 pound 15 ounce lunker, culling out their smallest fish. It was then that one of those “magical moments” in fishing occurred, where both Fallon and Wyatt almost simultaneously set the hook on what they knew were big fish. It was “controlled chaos” in the boat, as Julian landed both fish in the net. With Wyatt’s fish being another 6 pounder, and Fallon’s just shy of 5 pounds, the pair had an impressive 3 fish limit for a whopping 18.8 pounds.
It was at this time that our “Dynamic Duo” benefitted greatly from the vast experience of their Captain Julian Clepper. Number one, he knew that fish care in these hot temperatures was paramount. In fact, to protect the fish of Lake Pickwick, this is precisely why the Tournament Director decided upon a 3 fish limit, as opposed to the 5, which is standard. Julian said, “I utilized both ice and additives to the live wells, and also attached weighted fish clips to the fins of their fish, helping them stay upright and healthy in the live well.”
Number two, he knew that during a 3 day tournament that “they should manage how much pressure they would apply to the area, hoping it would be productive over three days.” Ultimately he put it to Fallon and Wyatt to make the decision, as this was their tournament. The pair agreed that they had enough weight to most likely be leading the tournament after the first day, and there was no reason to keep catching fish in that spot, and wanted to rest the area, choosing to fish other areas for the rest of the day. This turned out to be a wise decision, as the pair’s limit of 18.8 put them securely in first place, with almost a 5 pound lead over their closest competitors.
Day two started out with another 44 mile boat ride to their “Honey Hole.” As with most tournaments, the second day can be tough, and this was the case for Fallon and Wyatt. They did catch a smaller limit of 8 pounds and 3 ounces. After the weigh in scales closed, the Team from Montgomery Texas had a scant 1 ounce lead going into the third and final day.
It was on this last day of the National Championship, where all of their collective experiences and successes in previous tournaments came to the forefront, as they had a determination to finish what they started, and return home with the National Championship Trophies. In fact Wyatt explained “that because of the competition within the 92 member MISD Fishing Team, as well as competing in the Texas High School Bass Association, this high level of competition had prepared them for this moment.” Fallon also commented “that fishing on Conroe has prepared her for the rigors and challenges of fishing in crowds on highly pressured lakes.”
When they arrived at their fishing location, things got off to a wild start, as Wyatt caught a 7 pound 8 ounce behemoth, which put them in a great position to seal the deal. The pair ended up catching many more keepers, culling up to a 12 pound 8 ounce limit that was anchored by Wyatt’s big fish, which ended up being the largest fish caught all three days by over 550 anglers.
When the paired weighed in their 3 fish limit on the third and final day of the National Championship, it was done in dramatic fashion. Being the leaders, they were to weigh in last, and when the scales read 12 pounds and 8 ounces for day 3, this raised their 3 day total of 9 fish for 39.09 pounds, winning the event by over 5 pounds, and becoming National Champions!