Fifteen-year-old Alex Goff of Clendenin won the biggest bass tournament of his young life recently when he finished atop the 11-14 age bracket at the Bassmaster Youth World Championships. Goff's victory marked the first time a West Virginia youngster had captured a world title.
CLENDENIN, W.Va. -- Alex Goff took the short road to becoming a world champion.Just five years from when he started fishing in bass tournaments, Goff became the first West Virginian to win a B.A.S.S. Federation Nation world youth title. Battling high winds and low temperatures on Alabama's Wilson Lake, the Clendenin youngster took top honors in the Bassmaster Junior World Championship's 11-14 age bracket."This is definitely the biggest tournament I've ever won," said the Herbert Hoover High School sophomore.During his brief career as a tournament angler, Goff has won local, state and regional tournaments."I started fishing in tournaments with my dad when I was 6 or 7 years old," he said. "I've been fishing by myself in tournaments since I was 10, and I've managed to win a few."Goff won the West Virginia FLW championship in 2010, which qualified him to compete for the 11-14 title at the FLW Junior World Championships on Georgia's Lake Lanier. "I didn't do very well at the worlds," he recalled.He did considerably better this year. Fishing in the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation organization, which operates under different rules than FLW, Goff had to post two wins to make it into the world competition.
"I won the 2012 Federation Nation state youth tournament, and that qualified me to advance to the Mid-Atlantic Junior Championships," he said. "I won the Mid-Atlantic tournament, and that allowed me to advance to the worlds."When Goff arrived in Alabama to practice for the Oct. 27 event, the weather was warm and the winds were calm."I thought I had the lake all figured out," he said. "Then, on the day of the tournament, the weather changed. The temperature dropped 40 degrees and the wind kicked up to 25 miles an hour."All of Goff's meticulous practice went out the window.
"The fish I'd been catching in practice disappeared," he said. "I started looking for places that were more sheltered from the wind. I finally found one, a cove with docks and weeds, and I started catching fish."Goff boated one bass on a Rat-L-Trap crankbait and two larger fish on spinnerbaits. The biggest fish would later tip the scales at 3 pounds, 7 ounces.Waiting to learn whether he had won turned out to be more nerve-wracking than the pressure-packed day of fishing had been. The youth-division weigh-in followed the same format as all Bassmaster weigh-ins: The angler with the heaviest bag of fish must sit in front of the crowd on a "hot seat" as subsequent anglers' catches are weighed."Alex's turn came in the middle of the weigh-in," said his father, Mike Goff. "We could see that he had a good bag of fish, and it put him into the lead. He had to sit on the hot seat while all the rest of the competitors weighed in. It was pretty intense."
The final angler had also caught three bass, but when he lifted them from the bag it became apparent they wouldn't be large enough to eclipse the West Virginian's 8-pound total. The win belonged to Goff.His victory drew praise from West Virginia's Federation Nation angling community."We're tickled pink," said Ken Hackworth, the organization's youth director. "This is the first time a West Virginia kid has ever done it. We're very proud of him."The victory earned Goff a boatload of awards, one that even included the boat.In addition to a $5,000 college scholarship, $800 in Cabela's gift certificates and a honking big trophy, Goff brought home a 16-foot Triton aluminum bass boat rigged with a Mercury outboard, a Motor Guide trolling motor and Lowrance fish-finding electronics.Goff, who turned 15 between the West Virginia tournament and the Mid-Atlantic event, is now aiming to compete in higher youth age brackets, in adult tournaments and even in tournaments where he wears his school's colors.
"I'm going to start fishing the Buddy Tournament Trail this coming year, probably with another kid or maybe some with my dad," he said. "And I'd definitely like to fish on a college team."Reach John McCoy at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 304-348-1231.