Arkansas Team Takes The Lead In Bassmaster Junior Championship

Beau Browning and McCoy Vereen came into last year’s inaugural Costa Bassmaster Junior Championship with high hopes, but they didn’t catch a single legal-size bass in two days of competition.

Fast-forward a year, and things have changed drastically.

The 14-year-old Arkansas junior anglers nearly doubled up the total of their nearest competing team on the first day of the 2016 Costa Bassmaster Junior Championship on Carroll County 1,000 Acre Recreational Lake in western Tennessee. Browning and Vereen, who fish with the Anvil Jaw team out of Hot Springs, Ark., had a five-bass limit weighing 14 pounds, 9 ounces.

That haul gave the Arkansas team a stranglehold on the Day 1 lead; well in front of second-place team — the New Hampshire Junior Bassmasters — whose Jack Armstrong and Logan Daniels caught five fish that totaled 7-15. Only three of the other 29 teams competing in the junior championship are within 10 pounds of the Arkansas duo.

Fishing teams from Michigan (4-12), Louisiana (4-11), and Mississippi (4-10) round out the Top 5 squads after the first day. In all, 28 state champion teams (and another from Canada,) are fishing for the national title. Competition ends Wednesday. Anglers must be 14 years old or younger to compete in the junior championship.

Browning and Vereen, who both will soon enter the ninth grade, located their fish early in the morning when skies were overcast and the temperature had yet to climb above 90 degrees. They had a limit in the livewell within 30 minutes of the 6 a.m. launch, but the bite slowed as fishing pressure increased.

“We got out to our spot pretty close to the ramp, and we had a good solid limit in 30 minutes,” Browning said. “But by the time everyone had taken off, we had five boats on top of us. We ended up catching a 6-pounder, which bumped us up there. That gave us momentum. But fishing slowed down from there. It got hot, and we started struggling a bit.”

The duo lost another lunker bass a while later, but boated a 5-pounder in the afternoon that has them feeling good going into the final round.

The boys are captained/coached by Bassmaster Elite Series pro Stephen Browning, who is Beau’s father. Though coaches are able to talk with their young charges during junior competitions, the elder Browning indicated that Tuesday’s success was all a result of Beau’s and McCoy’s skills, and their resiliency.

“They learned a lot from last year,” Stephen Browning said. “When they left here, they knew more about the lake. It helped them prepare mentally. This is not one of those lakes where you’re going to run out and catch a huge bag. It’s a mental thing. They kept their heads down, and they hooked into a couple big ones. Them keeping it together was the most rewarding thing for me to see.”

The leaders know they’ll probably have to produce another decent limit on Wednesday to win the Costa Bassmaster Junior Championship. Last year, the Oklahoma team boated 28 pounds on Carroll County 1,000 Acre Recreational Lake on the final day to storm past the field.

“We’ll have to do the same thing we did today or better tomorrow,” Beau said. “Hopefully we can get a win.”

The second day of the Costa Bassmaster Junior Championship will begin with a 6 a.m. launch from Carroll County 1,000 Acre Recreation Lake in Huntingdon, Tenn. The weigh-in is scheduled to start at 1:45 p.m. in downtown Huntingdon.