Trey McKinney, 13, of Goreville, cut a significant notch in his angling belt last week, winning the Bassmaster Junior Championship Aug. 1 at Carroll County Lake in Tennessee.
McKinney; his partner, Carter Wijangco, of suburban Chicago; and boat captain Rick Cheatham, of Herrin, weighed in 17 pounds, 6 ounces over the two-day event, good enough for a one-ounce win. Jeremy Monda and Will Boyd of Florida took second place.
The winners brought 9 pounds, 6 ounces to the scales on day one, good enough for third place. They caught just 8 pounds on the final day, but that was enough to leap frog over the first and second place teams.
“It was definitely tough fishing,” Cheatham said. “There are some really big fish in that like, an 14-2 caught in practice, but there aren’t a lot of fish over two pounds (in the tournament).”
McKinney, who will be in eighth grade, and his partner caught the majority of their fish on Carolina rigs, jigs and shaky heads. However, during the final weigh-in McKinney confessed to having shaky knees.
As in other Bassmaster events, the weigh-in was staggered with the leaders coming in last. When McKinney and Wijangco weighed in they, of course, took the lead. That put them in the “hot seat,” a position where the current leaders remain on the stage until someone knocks them out.
“I was pretty nervous actually,” McKinney said. “After they showed we won by one ounce, it kind of relieved the nerves. It was pretty good. We took the hot seat. That kind of felt good. We had to wait on the Florida boys. We saw they had fish. It was kind of nerve racking.
“To be able to be able to win by one ounce is a pretty good blessing. We were behind. We didn’t have that good of a bag. We were kind of struggling, so it was kind of nerve racking.”
The Cheatham-McKinney partnership has thrived for the past couple years. Cheatham said the duo tries to formulate a game plan prior to each event.
“We try to do our research beforehand, the patterns that may be working,” he said. “We try to get in some practice and get in some real time and try to figure out a strategy that will give you success.
“There are some techniques they (younger fishermen) aren’t adept at. They haven’t done it enough. They don’t have the confidence. In a lot of areas, especially Trey, he has fished enough, he fishes as well as some adult I’ve fished with, casting, detecting what is a bite and what isn’t. I try to get him to his strengths, the baits he does well with. He’s having to learn to be more versatile.”
McKinney had little chance to rest on his laurels following the victory. He, Cheatham and Logan Baker, 14 of Crab Orchard, Cheatham’s grandson, headed to Lake Hamilton at Hot Springs, Arkansas, for The Bass Federation Junior World Championship.