Three Mifflinburg teens, along with another from South Williamsport, have advanced to the Bassmaster National Championship tournament in 2020 after winning the BASS Nation state tournament at Shenango Reservoir last month.
The team of Kaitlyn Bridge and Josh Stroud, seventh-graders from Mifflinburg and South Williamsport, respectively, won both the PA BASS Nation Jr. High State Championship, as well as the Bass Federation Jr. State Championship. The team of Gavin Enders and Cadin Sheesley, both of Mifflinburg, won the BASS Nation High School tournament
Bridge is the first girl from Pennsylvania to win both tournaments.
“It felt really exciting to win and to know that my partner and I get a chance to go to national championship events next summer,” Bridge said. “We feel honored to represent (Pennsylvania). I also hope more girls see me doing this and want to get involved in the sport.”
Bridge and Stroud bagged enough fish to win the PA BASS Nation tournament on the first day.
Bridge said the tournament was tougher than the Bass Federation State Championship, because the fish had to meet a 15-inch standard.
“We caught lots of short ones. We had a great first day with five fish for 11.96 pounds,” she said. “The second day we caught nine fish, but all were too short so we didn’t bring anything to the scales. Luckily our bag from the first day was enough to win it.”
Bridge began fishing with her grandparents at four years old, when her family moved to Pennsylvania from Florida. She found out about competitive fishing a few years ago at the Cabin Fever Expo in Mifflinburg, but was too young to be eligible.
“(I) couldn’t start until I turned 11,” she said. “On my 11th birthday, I had my dad send an email to the team director and got on the team.”
Enders and Sheesley were pleased with their performance.
“It was awesome to win it because this was our last state tournament we’d ever fish in,” Enders said. “Cadin’s my best friend. I wouldn’t (want to) be out there with anyone else. If fishing’s tough, Cadin is always there to make the day go by a lot faster and not as miserable.”
After only catching two keepers on day one, Enders and Sheesley came back to win the tournament on the second day.
“Our days at the state championship were a grind. It was super tough fishing,” Enders said. “We were sitting ... about five pounds behind the leaders going into Sunday.
The team started Sunday morning in the same place Sheesley caught a keep the day before, but they were unsuccessful.
“Cadin made the suggestion to run up the river,” Enders said. “As soon as we got there, Cadin caught one. We spent the whole day up the river flipping laydowns and throwing chatter baits. We were lucky enough to catch a limit in the final few minutes of fishing.”
Garrett Enders — Gavin’s older brother, who is on the fishing team at Bethel University (Tenn.) — was the team’s boater.
“It’s awesome having my big brother, and hero, as my boat captain,” Enders said. “He’s accomplished so much in this sport and has taught me so much over the years. I can’t thank him enough for it.”
The Bassmaster National Championships will take place on Lake Guntersville in Alabama in March.