Carterville’s Maddox Crain and Brandon Skelcher have been lifelong friends since their families introduced them to the world of fishing as kids.
The dynamic duo didn’t start competing in tournaments until three years ago when they were still in junior high. Crain is the older of the two as an incoming sophomore at Carterville High School, and Skelcher is a year behind him as a freshman. The two are ready to cap off their final year competing in the 15-and-under age group with a victory on the biggest stage: the Junior World Championship.
The Junior World Championship is a three-day fishing tournament from July 29-31 at Mosquito Lake in Trumbull County, Ohio. An estimated 30 to 40 teams are expected to partake in the fishing tournament. There will be one representative from each state that participates.
Crain and Skelcher have grown accustomed to competing in about 15-20 fishing tournaments every year, but due to COVID-19 the number of tournaments has been lower than usual.
The Illinois State Championship at Rend Lake on June 5 was the last tournament Crain and Skelcher participated in. The duo took down the bass tournament with a victory that earned them a spot at the JWC. It’s the biggest tournament they’ve ever won together and are anxious to test their luck at Trumbull County and represent Illinois well.
“We still don’t really know how to feel about it yet,” Crain said in regards to the JWC. “There’s going to be harder competition in this type of a tournament compared to ones we’ve fished in before so we expect it to be a little more stressful than usual.”
Preparation will begin once Crain and Skelcher arrive at Mosquito Lake two days before the tournament kicks off. The lake remains off limits to the general public two weeks prior to the official practice held on July 27.
Most know fishing to be a more peaceful hobby, but Skelcher says fishing tournaments are a whole lot different. Since teaming up with Crain, the two have worked hard on building their communication in order to successfully reel in a fish and not lose it. The biggest challenge normally comes with aligning whoever is holding the net on the same side of the boat as the one holding the rod.
“Whenever we know that we’re reeling in a big fish we just tell the other one to have the net ready on the side of the boat,” said Skelcher. “We normally fish using either a crawfish imitation bait or a crank bait because both of those have worked for us in the past.”
Fish aren’t the only animals that Crain and Skelcher like to hunt together. They work together to find deer, ducks and turkey. They are also both very involved with basketball. Crain gave up playing baseball alongside Skelcher to focus more on bass fishing, but he fills any of that free time playing golf.
Between the two of them, the JWC is the biggest competition they’ve ever been a part of. When fishing in a tournament of this magnitude, there are plenty of factors that could play in the grand scheme of things, but Crain and Skelcher are prepared to control what they can and treat it like any other fishing outing.
“We expect that they’ll have cameras and news networks there to cover the event, which is pretty cool for us,” said Crain. “If we can do well at this tournament, it will only help us step up to compete in bigger events.”
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