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A pair of outstanding bass fishermen from Central High School realized a lifelong dream Friday.
Recent Central graduate Hunter Klotz and rising senior Jerry Brumbaugh, Jr. won first place in the United States High School Fishing National Championship competition by rallying from behind on the third day of the three-day event Friday to take the title on Lake Hartwell in Anderson, S.C.
Klotz and Brumbaugh caught three fish Friday that weighed a total of nine pounds, nine ounces to top the second-place Georgia-based team of Will Hart and Logan Fisher. Georgia’s Jacob Rogers and William Ayscue, who had entered Friday’s competition with a narrow lead of two ounces in weight of fish caught over the first two days, finished third.
Klotz and Brumbaugh caught nine fish that weighed a total of 28 pounds, 13 ounces in the three-day event, while Hart and Fisher caught nine fish in the three days that weighed a total of 26 pounds, 15 ounces — including three on Friday that weighed a total of eight pounds, nine ounces.
The difference came Friday, when the three fish caught by Klotz and Brumbaugh outweighed Rogers and Ayscue’s third-day weight of six pounds, four ounces.
Klotz, who has accepted a Division I baseball scholarship to Kent State University, and Brumbaugh were both ecstatic about winning the national championship.
“You dream about this, and it hasn’t really sunk in yet,” said Klotz, who was a three-sport standout at Central. “There were 398 boats in this competition. This is the best of the best, and it feels great to win it.”
This week’s High School Fishing National Championship, which ran from Wednesday through Friday, was the 12th year for the annual event, and it is staged in conjunction with the one-day World Finals, which will be held today.
By winning the high school national championship Friday, Klotz and Brumbaugh automatically qualified for today’s World Finals competition — in which they finished second back in 2018 on Lake Pickwick in Alabama.
But Friday’s achievement topped that 2018 thrill for Klotz.
“This is really special,” Klotz said. “When we got second in Worlds, that was a great accomplishment, but this is a little bit bigger in my eyes, because we had to catch fish for three days,” Klotz said. “We were two ounces in back of the lead going into Friday, but we kept a nice pace for all three days. We averaged about three pounds a bass for all three days, which was really good.”
Brumbaugh, who is also a multiple-sport participant at Central, was equally excited about the big accomplishment.
“I’m still trying to take it all in,” said Brumbaugh, who has been competing for several years with Klotz in either the high school national or world events. “I know that a lot of people back home were pulling for us. We weren’t just fishing for ourselves.
“This is something that we have wanted to do for a long time, and we finally got it done today,” said Brumbaugh, whose father, Jerry Brumbaugh, Sr., was driving the team’s Ranger bass fishing boat in the event.
Brumbaugh, Jr. and Klotz had also placed sixth in the 2020 World Finals and 10th in the high school national championship event that was held last year on the Mississippi River in LaCrosse, Wisc.
Winning the high school national championship comes with a choice of either $10,000 in college scholarship money or a scholarship to one of three different colleges around the country — Simpson College (California), Drury University (Missouri) and Kentucky Christian University — which have competitive intercollegiate fishing programs.
Klotz will accept the $10,000 and apply it to his college bills at Kent State. Brumbaugh, Jr. still has a year to weigh all his options.
But on Friday, the two young fishing champions were enjoying basking in their moment of glory.
“This is a great feeling,” Klotz said. “I don’t even have the words to describe it right now.”
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