After Dan River High School students reel in state fishing championship, they hope to catch national title –


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After Dan River High School students reel in state fishing championship, they hope to catch national title

Kasey Ferguson and Jakari Thomas pose with their plaques and medals from their state championship win at Kerr Lake on April 25.

Brian Cendeja, special to the Register & Bee

Special to the Register & Bee
For Dan River High School students Kasey Ferguson and Jakari Thomas, the sport of fishing has kept their friendship together growing up.“I’ve been fishing for as long I can remember,” Ferguson said. “My dad has been pushing me for as long I can remember."When Ferguson reached high school, he heard about Dan River's fishing team. That was right up his alley.“My grandfather used to fish and my dad fished as well,” Thomas said. “Really when I got hip to it is when I started coming over here [Ferguson’s home] and going with them to the lake, taking trips and making memories.”Through their hard-work and dedication to the sport, the duo completed a well-earned lifelong goal: winning a state championship. In April, out of 36 boats, Ferguson and Thomas came away with the state title at Kerr Lake, a reservoir between Virginia and North Carolina.In the two days, they caught 10 largemouth bass weighing 36.34 pounds and ended the tournament with 200 total points, the most in the state of Virginia.“It’s always been a dream to do this.” Ferguson said on winning a state championship. “I can remember talking about it in middle school, I remember telling him ‘We need to do this and be serious about this because fishing is something we’ve been doing for a long time.'”Ferguson and Thomas said the weather conditions of the first day of the tournament — April 24 — were rough due to rain. However, the two were prepared as soon they hit the lake.“We’ve been fishing in the rain for a long time,” Thomas said.“We knew it was going to rain. We just went ahead and accepted the fact that we were going to fish in the rain,” Ferguson said.Not as easy as it seemsSome will argue fishing can be easy. And some will say all it takes is bait and string to reel a fish in. But for serious fisherman like Ferguson and Thomas, there are numerous skills they learn before heading to the lake.“Casting, finding out where the fish are and where they hitting that time of year,” Ferguson said, listing what they go over in preparation. “It's all about water temperature, water depth, figuring out if it’s going to be cloudy that day, extremely sunny, rainy or if a cold front is coming through. It’s a whole list that I could go on and on about.”“Usually after three fish, we try to focus on ‘Where did we catch that fish at? What did we catch it on? How did we present the lure to the fish?'" Thomas said. “It's deeper than what you think it is. You have to fish like it’s the actual bait in the water. So, after three or four fish, we find a pattern.”Both said they bring a combined average of 15-20 rods with them to the lake.Thomas said they had to catch largemouth bass as part of the tournament rules. With the point system, they take points from days one and two, separately, and combine them at the end of the tournament to determine a winner. Ferguson said points are also distributed in where a participant places once the tournament is complete.After day one, Ferguson and Thomas ended up with 20.09 overall points. At the time, the two held a 4.5-point lead over Liberty Christian Academy opponents who ended the day in second place with 15.51 points.Both said the weather for day two was better overall, and their performance on the lake was phenomenal. The two caught five more largemouth bass, which helped their advantage as the five bass ended up weighing 16.25 pounds, reeling in the state title.“When we hit the 15 [pounds] mark, out on the boat, we thought we had it sealed with the win,” Ferguson said. Both said even after they hit that mark they didn’t let off and continued to add to the lead.Both Ferguson and Thomas were awarded plaques, celebrating their championship, along with new fishing rods.Heading to nationalsWith the state title in hand, Ferguson and Thomas look to continue their success to grab the grand prize of a national championship. The national championship will be held at Chickamauga Lake in Dayton, Tennessee, with about 200-300 teams.They won't be able to be on the lake from July 1 until the first day of the tournament, July 29. There will be practice days July 27-28.Jimmy Ferguson, Kasey’s father and the duo’s boat master, said all teams will fish on days one and two in the national championship. The third and final day of the championship will feature the top 12 teams at that point in time.Ferguson and Thomas have about two months to practice and work on their craft before they head to Tennessee.“Just do as much research as you can do,” Ferguson said about their plans. “The internet helps a lot with things. YouTube, Google all that good stuff. And just watching videos of some of the people, pros even.”Since Dan River no longer recognizes the fishing team as an official sport within the school — it was cut due to COVID-19 related issues — both Ferguson, Thomas, and Jimmy Ferguson have put their own time, effort, and money to invest their fisherman careers.Jimmy Ferguson said that Dan River has the interest of students for a fishing team, and said “it’s a big commitment financially and your time for a boat captain to be a captain. You have to have insurance coverage on your boat in order to have the kids to be able fish with.”Ferguson and Thomas said even once their season is over, they’ll feel successful as they got the title of state champions.“That’s something we wanted to do for a while,” said Feguson “We did it. Nationals is an opportunity now.”The boys said their overall end goals is to one day have the chance to be professional fisherman and dream of going to college on a fishing scholarship once their time at Dan River has completed.

Kasey Ferguson and Jakari Thomas pose with their plaques and medals from their state championship win at Kerr Lake on April 25.

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