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Franklin County fishers fare well at world finals

The Student Angler Federation’s High School Fishing World Finals, billed as “the most prestigious national high school fishing event in the country,” took place last week on Pickwick in McFarland Park in Florence, with two Russellville Golden Tiger Angler Teams placing in the top 21 at the end of championship Saturday.

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“These same two teams made it to the finals last year, too,” boat captain Dennis Hatton pointed out. “They were very excited. It was a pretty tough accomplishment to get there, and to do it two years in a row – they were excited about it.”

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The teams of Dylan Hatton/Caleb Mays and Hayden Suddith/Marquise Nelson came in 11th and 18th respectively out of the 21 championship teams. These 21 teams came from a wider pool of 187 teams from 21 or 22 states that turned out for the four-day tournament.

The Golden Tiger Anglers took five teams total to the Student Angler Federation competition: Abby Burks/Trennis Hester, Shelton Byrd/Austin Nelson and Blake Pruitt/Austin Ashley, in addition to Hatton/Mays and Suddith/Nelson.

Also from Franklin County, Phil Campbell fielded three teams, two of which played in the “consolation tournament” Friday.

The team of Dakota Mansell/Cade Baker brought in 11 pounds, 10 ounces on day 1. The teams of Brent and Trent Gonzalez and Eli Jackson and Ryan Rackard zeroed out in day 1 fishing.

“It was just bad conditions for them,” boat captain Shane Mansell said. “The fish had a lot of boats out there pressuring them and they just couldn’t get to them.”

Hatton/Mays and Suddith/Nelson nailed 7th and 9th respectively in the second chance “consolation tournament” to get their shot at championship Saturday. Phil Campbell’s teams would not fare as well. “Day 3, Dakota and Cade bombed. We just had tough conditions. Our spot that we had been using was taken, so it didn’t turn out too well that day,” Mansell said. “They fished hard and kept their heads up.”

Belgreen also fielded a team at the tourney, with the pair of Harrison Riley/Trey Willingham playing in the consolation tourney Friday with boat captain Stan Riley. Sponsor Emily Blanton “they caught the most fish they have ever caught in a tournament before.” Day three found the boys with 11 pounds of fish for a 32nd place finish. “I was really pleased with them,” Blanton said. “It was awesome to finish that high out of 187 teams. I was really pleased.”

“People say it’s not a sport, but it is,” Mansell said. “You tell me one athlete who gets up at 3 in the morning and stays out on the water (all day). It takes a lot of effort to be able to do this … These kids have a lot of endurance to get up and do this for three days straight.”

Hatton/Mays’ weigh-in Saturday was 13 pounds even. Suddith/Nelson fished nearly 7 pounds.

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