Virginia's Ferguson and Thomas take lead in scorching hot first round of Bassmaster High School Championship on Lake Hartwell

Kasey Ferguson and Jakari Thomas certainly weren’t wild about the 100-degree heat index anglers faced on Day 1 of the Strike King Bassmaster High School National Championship presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors on Lake Hartwell.

But the 18-year-olds countered the scorching temperatures with some hot fishing on Thursday. The duo from Virginia’s Ringgold Bassin’ team caught a three-fish limit weighing 12 pounds, 7 ounces to take a narrow lead in this three-day event.

Ferguson and Thomas found an early bite before the South Carolina sun climbed high and beat down relentlessly on each of Lake Hartwell’s 56,000 acres. In fact, they were pleased enough with their catch to leave the water early, weighing in well before their scheduled 3:40 p.m. check-in.

“It was brutal,” Thomas said, referencing the oppressive heat.

Still, it wasn’t harsh enough to keep the team from grabbing the lead. They fished the backs of pockets and some boat docks with wacky-rigged Senko worms (green pumpkin, black/blue), and they threw a variety of flukes to any shaded area they could find.

“If you saw a piece of wood and it had some shade on it, there likely was a fish on it,” Ferguson said. “There definitely was a pattern.”

Ferguson and Thomas won three consecutive Virginia B.A.S.S. Nation High School state titles, the last one coming just before they graduated from Dan River High School in Ringgold, Va. They also are familiar with Hartwell, which they said helped their cause on Day 1. The duo placed 12th in last year’s national tournament on this famed reservoir straddling the South Carolina/Georgia border.

“Knowing the body of water definitely is a plus,” Ferguson said. “We did some of the same stuff we did last year, and we obviously couldn’t do that on a place new to us.”

The leaders are hoping they’ll have some of the same fortunes on Friday when the massive full field competes again. The field will be trimmed to the Top 12 for Saturday’s championship round.

“We’ll pray,” Thomas said, talking about the Day 2 game plan. “We’ll put it in God’s hands. That, and we’ll have plenty of water and ice.”

This is the 10th year B.A.S.S. has held a national championship tournament, and the second-straight year it’s been at Lake Hartwell. Teams from 35 states and Canada are vying for part of $22,950 in scholarships, including $5,000 to be split by the eventual winning duo.

Rounding out the Top 5 teams on Day 1 were, second place, Alabama’s Spencer Grooms and Hudson Gallimore, 12-6; third, South Carolina’s Mitchell Robinson and Cody Abbott, 11-15; fourth, Alabama’s Avery Padgett and Ethan Young, 11-14; and fifth, Illinois’ Chase and Carter Logue, 11-3. Florida’s Claude Loftin and Isaac Dorland also caught 11-3 on Thursday but are in sixth place after tiebreakers.

Tennessee’s Ty Trentham and Chase McCarter have the early lead in the race for the Big Bass Award with a 6-15 largemouth.

Trentham caught the lunker late Thursday afternoon, giving his team more than a 5-pound upgrade. They’re in ninth place overall with 10-10.

“We went to our backup plan,” Trentham said. “About 10 casts into it, the big one was on. It was on structure in about 10 feet of water.”

Day 2 will begin with a 6:20 a.m. ET takeoff from Green Pond Landing and Event Center. The weigh-in will be held back at Green Pond at 2:20 p.m. Full coverage will be available on

The tournament is being hosted by Visit Anderson.