There was nothing easy about it, but Goreville’s Trey McKinney and Crab Orchard’s Logan Baker were crowned champions of the FLW Bass Federation World Junior Championship at Arkansas’ Lake Hamilton on Saturday.
Rick Cheatham of Herrin served as boat captain. Cheatham and McKinney were fresh off the 2018 Bassmaster Junior Championship, where McKinney and his partner took the championship title.
The FLW format had anglers divided into five geographic regions. There was a two-day preliminary round. The winners of each division advanced to Saturday’s finals.
After Day 1, McKinney, Baker and Cheatham found themselves in third place overall, but leading their division.
“We knew we had some shallow fish if the conditions were favorable,” Cheatham said. “We hoped it would rain. It was raining. Logan was throwing a Whopper Flopper. Trey was throwing a Strike King buzzbait. We were fishing topwater in the low light conditions.”
Although the fishing worked out well, Cheatham experienced boat problems.
They made arrangements to borrow a boat from Futrell Marine at Lake Hamilton. However, Del Croft, a friend of Cheatham’s, drove from Marion to provide them a boat. The day was further complicated by dense fog, which delayed take-off for about three hours.
“We knew since we had to start over on Day 3 we didn’t really want to fish our good spots,” Cheatham said. “We fished areas that had more spotted bass. Fished, drop-offs, in deeper water,drop-shotted some bridge pilings. I thought if we caught at least three fish we could maintain lead in our division.”
They did just that. In fact, the six-pound bag they checked in pushed them to the overall lead.
On Day 3, the group again changed boats, this time using the boat provided by Futrell Marine. And, the day got off to a good start, catching a couple fish on topwater baits in low light conditions. Then, they decided to try another spot, a shallow flat at the back end of a creek.
They found fish in the spot, but discovered the trolling motor on the borrowed boat was inoperative. Fortunately, since they were in first place, a media boat was following them. The camera boat operator offered to switch boats with them.
It took some negotiations and jumping through hoops, but the FLW agreed they could switch boats. The process cost them precious time.
“They were kind of down and lost their confidence,” Cheatham said. “We ended up running to some other spots and caught a third fish. Trey caught it drop-shotting. We pulled up on a bridge-piling and Trey caught one on a drop shot and we hung around there and Logan caught one on a swim bait.”
Their take on Saturday was over six pounds, enough to allow them to hang on for the title. They were presented their championship trophies by professional fishing superstar Hank Parker.
“I don’t think anyone has ever won both (Bassmaster and FLW junior tournaments) in the same year,” Cheatham said.