Florida teen Yavorsky takes Team Championship Fish-Off lead at Harris Chain of Lakes

Aaron Yavorsky only needs one more day of solid fishing to write his name in the B.A.S.S. record books.

Yavorksy, a 17-year-old high school senior from Palm Harbor, Fla, caught five bass weighing a whopping 30 pounds, 7 ounces Friday on Day 1 of the 2023 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Team Championship Classic Fish-Off. It was a phenomenal haul that gave him nearly a 16-pound lead on the closest of the five other anglers in the field.

The huge catch also gave Yavorsky a decided edge on the dream of a lifetime — a berth in the 2024 Bassmaster Classic. The winner here on Saturday will clinch the final entry into the sport’s biggest derby, which will be held March 22-24 on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees.

If Yavorsky’s tremendous lead does hold, he would be the youngest person ever to compete in a Bassmaster Classic. David Brind, of New York, currently has that distinction, after fishing the 1979 Classic on Lake Texoma when he was only 18.

Yavorsky is aware history could be in the making.

“There were a lot of nerves today,” he said. “Obviously just making it to today, there are a lot of things running through your head ... I might be restless tonight, but I’ll try to get some sleep. I just need to get back out there tomorrow. I’m confident because I’ve got a decent lead.”

Friday’s bag was not an outlier, though, as Yavorsky has been whacking the largemouth bass all week on the Harris Chain of Lakes, only 90 minutes from his family home on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

He and his dad, Rodney Yavorsky, won the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Team Championship on Thursday when they caught a whopping 31-6 limit and eased to a victory of nearly 14 pounds. Aaron carried the load when he teamed with dad, too, catching a 9-3 lunker midday on Thursday to push the Yavorskys past the hallowed 30-pound mark.

Aaron, who’s a member of the Florida BASS Nation Team Trail, was no less impressive fishing by himself on Friday. He said he’s fishing in Lake Carlton, about a 30-minute run from Venetian Gardens, where this week’s takeoffs and weigh-ins are taking place.

The special spot of the week, he said, is a shellbar in about 10 feet of water. He’s exclusively throwing crankbaits over an area that is about 200 to 300 yards long.

“I’m just going up and down that spot,” he said. “There’s a lot of bait out there right now. The colder weather moved them out on it. I think they’re getting ready to spawn. They’re just feeding up on shad right now. They’re really scattered. It’s just a matter of getting the big ones to bite.”

Friday’s big bass weighed 8-15. He caught the lunker early in the day and had a limit within an hour.

From that point, it was a matter of patience, with upgrades coming throughout the day.

The Top 3 duos in the Team Championship had their weights zeroed Thursday and the six anglers started competing individually Friday.

That allowed Rodney Yavorsky the chance to see his son put on another display Friday, choosing to watch from a distance rather than fishing himself. He did catch one bass for 1-4, enough to earn a walk across the B.A.S.S. stage.

He was reserving the spotlight, he said, for his son.

“I’m here for him,” Rodney said. “He deserves this. He works hard, spends a lot of time on the water. It pays off.”

Connor Nimrod, a West Monroe, La., resident who fishes the Media Bass trail, is in second place in the Fish-Off with a limit that weighed 14-10. He said he’s making the long run to Lake Apopka, throwing bladed jigs to patches of scattered eelgrass.

Nimrod, 24, knows overcoming a deficit of nearly 16 pounds won’t be easy. But, he said, Florida might be the perfect spot to do it.

“The big ones live here,” he said. “We’ve been around them all week. It would be an impressive thing if I can come back, and I’m gonna try. But Aaron has been putting on a show this week ... Whatever happens, I’ve already had a great week here, too.”

Other remaining anglers are Blain Bartley of Pennsylvania’s Media Bass Buddy Circuit, who caught a limit Friday and is in third place with 6-10. Thomas Soileau, also of West Monroe and Media Bass, caught three bass weighing 4-13. Rj Graham, who teamed with Bartley to finish second in the Team Championship, is fifth with three bass totaling 4-10. The elder Yavorsky is sixth with his 1-4 catch.

The second and final day of the Fish-Off will begin at 7 a.m. ET at Venetian Gardens. Weigh-in is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. Follow the weigh-in online at Bassmaster.com.

The Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Team Championship is being hosted by Visit Lake, the City of Leesburg and the Greater Orlando Sports Commission.