Back to back.
Competitive anglers love that phrase, especially when it applies to them, because it means they’ve won a tournament they’ve won before.
They’re just 10 years old, but Ari Clark and Bo Hollen have experience with “back to back.” For the second year in a row, they’ve captured the West Virginia BASS Nation’s Junior Championship and have earned another trip to the national tournament.
Ari and Bo boated five bass that totaled 4.40 pounds during last weekend’s tournament on the Kanawha River.
The weight aggregate matched exactly the total caught by the team of Luke Ankrom and Ty Ott, but Ari and Bo won the tie-breaker because the largest fish they caught, a 2.7-pounder, was larger than any Ankrom and Ott were able to land.
Ari, who lives in Winfield, said he and Hollen didn’t have much trouble catching bass in the Kanawha, which can be difficult to fish at times.
“We caught about 10 or 12 bass total, including a 1-pounder and that 2.7-pounder,” he added. “I caught most of the fish, and Bo caught the bigger ones.”
Ari said their day of fishing started off with only small fish.
There is no minimum size limit for youth tournaments, so their five-fish weight total built steadily every time they caught a bass bigger than the smallest one in the boat’s livewell.
Their weight total took a giant leap upward when Bo landed the 1-pounder and the 2.7-pounder. Not only did the 2.7-pounder give them the tie-break over Ankrom and Ott, it also earned Ari and Bo the tournament’s big-fish “lunker” award.
In October, the two young anglers and their adult boat captain, Dustin Hollen, will head for Huntingdon, Tennessee, for the Junior Bassmaster Championship to be held at the oddly named Carroll County One Thousand Acre Recreational Lake.
They know the lake; they finished ninth there in last year’s national tournament.
“It feels good to be going back,” Ari said. “We’ll probably go back to the same spots we fished last year.”
The Junior Championship wasn’t the only West Virginia title decided on the Kanawha last weekend.
The Lewis County High School team of Christian Mullins and Brayden Stout won the state High School Championship with a 6.30-pound total, and the Marshall University team of Evan Haley and Chase Arkel won the state Collegiate Championship with a 4.30-pound aggregate.