Seckman High School juniors Zak Hobbs and Tristen Konecnik took their state championship credentials to Pickwick Lake in Alabama June 26-30 for the High School Fishing World Finals and 2018 National Championships.
It didn’t take long for them to learn that techniques from Missouri were not the right strategy for the Tennessee River reservoir.
With the Lake of the Ozarks as their home lake, they know that shooting docks and scouring the shorelines are a recipe for success, but on the first day of the national tournament, they caught zero keeper fish doing what they know best.
“We weren’t catching any fish up there, and we found out the teams catching fish were fishing deep ledges,” Zak said. “You definitely have to do research about fishing in current and off the ledges to find schools of actively feeding fish.”
With some lessons learned before the second day of the tournament began, the pair caught a limit of fish good enough for a third-place finish for the day including one largemouth bass over five pounds and a spotted bass over four pounds, said Brian Hobbs, Zak’s dad and the team’s boat captain. The Missouri team’s great second day earned them 88th place out of about 360 teams
“I wish we would have went deep on the first day,” Zak said. “I can’t wait to get back there next year.”
To fulfill that dream they will have to qualify again as one of the top teams in Missouri, but they will enter that competition next season as defending state champions. The team finished first out of 272 teams in the Missouri High School State Championships on April 14 at Truman Lake. Zak and Tristen took top honors with a five-fish limit that weighed 16.62 pounds.
The weather for the tournament was nearly as memorable as the win. After a week of pleasant spring conditions prior to the event, that Saturday morning it was 40 degrees and dropping with winds of 15 to 20 mph.
“Truman can be a tough lake that time of year, and then it got windy and cold,” Zak said. “The water was really muddy and cold. Everything looks the same there. Finding unique structure is tough.”
Zak said the high school tournament season will begin again next spring, but based on this year’s success, he and Tristen will get to participate in the Midwest Shootout on Table Rock Lake in October.
Participating in the sport of high school tournament bass fishing means a lot more than just catching fish. Zak said that during his Missouri tournaments and the trip to Alabama, he enjoyed getting to know other young anglers from all over the country.
“You get to meet new people and make a lot of new friendships,” Zak said. “High school fishing has come super far in the past few years. It’s definitely a good thing for people to get into. Anybody can do it. It almost seems there are more girls than boys fishing some times.”
Fishing acumen is not the only requirement. Zak said grade requirements make certain anglers focus on their studies. He said he knows that if he wants to fish on the weekend, he has to get his schoolwork done during the week.
“It’s required for the tournaments that you have to have a certain GPA,” he said. “You have to bring a report card with yo
u to prove it.”
Brian Hobbs said he appreciates the scholarship opportunities. The top finishers in the national and world tournaments split about $300,000 in scholarships. Zak has earned about $2,000 in certificates so far that can be used for tuition, books or other college expenses.
Brian Hobbs said he also enjoys his role as boat captain.
“Zak and Tristen do it all. I just sit in the boat and take pictures,” he said. He hopes other parents and young anglers will want to give the sport a try in the future.
John J. Winkelman is community relations manager at Mercy Hospital Jefferson. If you have news for Outdoor Guide Magazine, e-mail email@example.com and you can follow John on Twitter at @johnjwink99.