Will Holloway and Cael Henderson are over 700 miles away from home. But they are gearing up to represent the Rome area, Armuchee High School and the state of Georgia on a colossal stage.
At first light today, Holloway and Henderson will be on the water, competing in the 11th annual High School Fishing World Finals in La Crosse, Wisconsin. The four-day tournament will consist of about 300 teams from across North America, competing for a share of $3 million in scholarship money plus other prizes. All teams will be fishing for a spot in the top 31, which advance to Saturday’s finals for the World Champions Title.
“A little bit of everything,” Henderson said in a phone interview on his feelings of the tournament. “Excited, nervous, tired.”
“Just read to see what happens,” Holloway added.
Both Holloway and Henderson have been fishing since they were little. Holloway is a rising senior and Henderson is about to begin his freshman year at Armuchee.
To make the nearly 15-hour journey to La Crosse, Holloway and Henderson claimed first place in the first annual Student Angler Federation Fishing League Worldwide (SAF FLW) State Kayak Championship at Hard Labor Creek, east of Atlanta, on May 30. Holloway and Henderson partake in a good amount of kayak fishing, but the championships in Wisconsin will be on a bass fishing boat.
“I’m definitely more comfortable in the kayak,” Henderson said. “This whole bass boat thing is different. It’s a whole different approach to fishing (and) a different experience. It’s a different setting.”
Arriving in Wisconsin last Friday, Holloway and Henderson took part in prefishing on the Mississippi River to get a gauge on the conditions and locate suitable spots for fishing in the tournament.
“We found some fish, but we’ll see what happens,” Henderson said.
“It’s way different up north than it is down south,” Holloway added. “There’s a lot of grass up here and it’s really shallow. Back home, there’s not as much grass and a little deeper water and not as cold.”
Henderson said the he and Holloway will get up around 3 a.m. local time (4 a.m. in Rome). The crew, with Henderson’s father, Clint, as captain, will blast off at 6 a.m. and return for weigh-ins at 1:30 p.m. After Friday, there will be a cut down to 31 teams to compete in the championship Saturday.
While the championship title, scholarship money and other prizes are on the line, Holloway and Henderson are not dwelling on the particulars.
“Just do the best you can,” Holloway said. “See if you can find some fish.”
“If we end up missing some fish ..., just know there’s more out there and not give up,” Henderson added.
The duo said they are proud to represent Armuchee High School, Rome and Georgia in the upper Midwest.
“I feel like it’s pretty big coming from that small of a town and competing in a national tournament,” Henderson said.
“It’s cooler up here,” Holloway added. “Glad we’re representing Armuchee.”