Last weekend I watched an angling version of David and Goliath at Wilson Lake at the Kansas High School Fishing State Championship.Brady Sherman, left, and Sam Starr were the favorites to win the state bass fishing championship. Both are 18 and have fished bass tournaments for most of their lives.Goliath was a team of two 18-year-olds who have been seriously fishing bass tournaments much of their lives.
Sam Starr and Brady Sherman know more about bass than most fisheries biologists. They have the same equipment you see at The Classic and were full-grown men on a mission.
Winning the state championship earned them a trip to regionals in Illinois. Doing well there could send them to a world championship and some amazing prizes.
On the other hand Fritz Berger, 14, and Riggs Walter,15, were just a couple of buddies enjoying an incredible day of fishing.
The table was set amazingly well for the state's first high school championship.
Three days prior an 80 boat tournament had been held at Wilson.Riggs Walter, 15, left, and Fritz Berger, right, missed winning the state bass fishing championship by five ounces. They seemed to have a ton more fun than any other team, though.About 1,400 pounds of bass had been released right by the ramp where the high school event was held after the fish had been weighed at the adult contest.
Not only were bass stacked in the area they were famished.
Wilson Lake is running very short on gizzard shad. Competition for food is great and that can make for outstanding action.
Five teams launched at about 6 a.m. and most had their tournament limit of five within minutes fishing around the ramp.
Most of the fish were barely over the 15-inch minimum length limit.
From the start it looked like a horse race between the Starr/Sherman team and the Berger/Walter pair.
Berger's dad, Tommie, was piloting their boat. He's Wilson's fisheries biologist and a good angler, too.
Starr's dad, Lyle, was the mandatory adult in their boat, though both boys could operate the craft with ease.
Lyle Star has decades of tournament fishing experience.
After a quick limit Goliath's boat headed for other places hoping to find some bigger fish.
The Davids stayed within sight of the launch cove all day.
I was able to drive state park roads and check on the teams whenever I liked.
Let me say that Starr and Sherman are far from bullies.
Both are fine young men, the kind that give you a little more faith in this country's future.
They're pleasant, polite, intelligent, articulate, hard-working, funny...and bass fishing machines when they're on the water.
Every motion they made had a purpose as they sprayed the shoreline with rapid-fire casts. They made ready use of a stack of fancy baitcasting outfits all rigged with different lures.
They were a pair of highly-trained men working specialized jobs.
Heck, they were even dressed in specialized tournament fishing clothing.
Things were far different in Berger's boat.
The kids were using one mid-priced spinning rod and reel apiece. Some of their casts were longer or shorter than others.
And they appeared to be having the time of their lives.
Even against the wind I could hear them laughing and yelling when a bass took a lure. The kids were dressed in the same knock-about clothes you'd see them in playing around at a local creek, tossing a football or doing homework.
I watched as they caught fish after fish. Many times both were fighting a bass at the same time. Fritz even had two bass hanging from the same lure at once.
The last hour of the tournament David and Goliath weren't more than 200 yards apart, catching dozens of bass per young angler.
Everyone knew the championship would come down to the wire.
Most of the fish looked like they'd been stamped from the same mold at about 15 to 16 inches.
The kicker, I thought, was a 3.6-pounder Walter had landed.
But at the weigh-in Goliath checked in 12.8 pounds.
David had just 12.3 pounds.
I don't think the younger boys got out-fished as much as they got out-teched.
Tommie Berger just went by sight and gut-feeling when he helped the boys cull their fish.
Lyle Starr had a balance beam that let him compare two fish at a time. Even the slightest difference in weight was obvious.
Goliath won by one ounce per fish. Amid their 75 or so bass the David's released were probably some that could have given them the tournament.
But as the winners the Goliath team is heading to a big regional competition where they'll be super-serious fishermen, never wasting a second, putting a wide variety of lures exactly where they need to be.
That same weekend the David team will also probably be fishing somewhere, simply having fun.
Of that I'm glad.
That's the main reason we all go fishing, anyway.
Fritz and Riggs have plenty of time before they need to take life too seriously.