MARION — A pair of Marion eighth-graders will compete at the Bassmaster Junior Nationals on July 29-30 at 1,000 Acre Lake in Huntingdon, Tenn.
Landon Gabby and Carson Bruner qualified for the prestigious meet by virtue of having placed first late last month at an open tournament at Norfolk Lake in Mountain Home, Ark.
The two 14-year-olds caught four fish totaling 10 pounds, 13 ounces in winning the championship, edging out the runners up by two ounces. Gabby and Bruner also laid claim to the biggest bass caught at the open, weighing in at 5 pounds, 11 ounces. The fish was caught with a buzz bait.
"It was a pretty cool experience," said Gabby, who has now qualified for the nationals three times over the last four years. "This is the first time I have been part of winning an open."
Gabby said that he learned about fishing from his father, Stephen, who also serves as the boat captain. Landon got a chance to watch his cousin, Wyatt Gabby, compete on the Marion High School bass fishing team. He said he and Bruner began practicing for regional competitions in March and will continue to hit the lake until after the national meet.
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Bruner said he did not expect to win the Arkansas open.
"But it was pretty awesome when we did," he said. "We kind of struggled early in the day, and even after we caught the big one, I thought we might still need one more. Fortunately, we didn't. When we were announced as the winners, I looked at Landon. I think we were in shock."
Bruner said he, too, learned the art of fishing from his father, Bryan.
"I've probably been fishing since I was younger than 5," he said. "Fishing has always been fun to me."
Bruner added that in order to place at nationals, he and Gabby will likely have to catch their allotted number of fish with a combined weight close to 20 pounds.
Although the duo have only fished competitively together for two years, Gabby and Bruner have been good friends for several years, having played summer baseball together. The two also competed at the World Finals last year, placing second in the Northern Region in East Moline and 11th overall among junior participants. They also won a state tournament last year at Carlyle Lake.
Members of the Southern Illinois Future Anglers Club in Marion, Gabby and Bruner will be one of anywhere from 60-to-70 teams competing at the junior nationals.
"There will be one, if not two teams, representing most every state and Canada, too," Gabby said. "The hot weather may make it difficult to catch a lot of fish, but hopefully, we will find a good spot and get a couple of big ones."