"I think bass fishing all year long," said McEachern, a junior at Spring Valley High School. "I don't do sports; I just bass fish."
In fact, he fishes about as many bass tournaments as a teenager as most of his adult peers.
McEachern recently fished in his second National Guard Junior World Championship on the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh, placing 11th in the world - in third place and just six ounces out of first place for the Southern Division title for his age group.
He also qualified for the Junior World Championship in 2008 on South Carolina's Lake Monticello by winning the 15-to-18 age group in South Carolina competitions. He won the 2009 Junior State championship on Lake Murray on May 16 with two bass that weighed 3½ pounds.
This past summer, McEachern and Shane Cantley of Lugoff, another junior angler, fished Thursday-night tournaments on Lake Monticello, held their own against the adult anglers and even won one tournament.
In August, they began teaming up for the Capt. Fatback Lake Monticello Open Trail Series, winning the first tournament with five bass that weighed 6.80 pounds. They were second in the Aug. 20 tournament with four fish that weighed 10.90 pounds, and McEachern had the big fish of the tournament at 5.8 pounds. They also placed second in all three September tournaments.
They won the Katie Fitts Open on Lake Murray and were 33rd in the Kyle Page Tournament in May - out of 177 boats.
"We'd have won more money in the Kyle Page Tournament if I hadn't lost a 6-pounder at the boat," McEachern said.
But the high point of the year, he said, was fishing in the Junior World Championship.
"I had never fished in a river and never fished for smallmouth bass - and conditions were not that great for smallmouth. The water rose about four feet," he said.
So, he fell back on his basic bass fishing knowledge, honed exclusively until then on the native largemouth bass back in South Carolina.
"Fish act basically the same across the country, but there are some exceptions. I'm pretty much a largemouth fisherman, but I knew that in high water, fish gravitate toward the bank to shallow water," he said. "And there were mayflies on the water, so I figured the fish would be feeding under the mayflies."
So, he tied on a drop-shot rig with a red-flake Robo Worm Aaron's Magic and started catching smallmouth bass. Some also hit a Rebel Pop-R with a chartreuse back.
"I caught 10 or 15 that were about 11¾ inches long, just borderline (The tournament size minimum was 12 inches). I only caught two keepers for two pounds even," he said.
That was not enough to advance to the finals, but McEachern said he learned a lot from the experience - and he gained his first sponsor. McEachern is now a pro staff member for Gamma Fishing Line.
He currently trails Cantley in the St. Andrews Junior Bass Club points competition. The juniors fish with the adult members of the St. Andrews Bass Club in monthly tournaments, and the top three in each age group will compete in the Junior State Championship next year.
"I also want to start fishing the (Walmart) BFLs, and Shane and I plan to fish a lot of open tournaments," said McEachern, whose goals include earning a degree at the University of South Carolina and fishing on the Gamecocks Bass Club Team.
McEachern said his bass-fishing odyssey began a long time ago when he was watching the Bassmaster television series one Saturday morning.
"I said, 'I want to do that,'" he recalled.
But, unlike many youngsters who try to pattern their skills and techniques after a favorite pro angler, McEachern said he has no idol among the stars of professional bass fishing.
"I pretty much do my own thing," he said.
And he's pretty good at it, too.
SC junior wins world championship
Ironically, the winner of the 15-to-18 age bracket in the National Guard Bass Federation Junior World Championship on the Allegheny River happened to be another teenager from South Carolina.
But Zack Messer, a junior at South Aiken High School, did not qualify through the Southern Division. Messer flew back to Idaho in June after the school year ended and qualified for the tournament in his former home state.
Representing The Bass Federation's Western Division, Messer won the 15-to-18 age group with a smallmouth bass that weighed 6 pounds, 7 ounces. He won a $5,000 scholarship, a $500 big-fish award and a $1,500 sponsorship with Berkley for placing in the top three.
Messer started tournament fishing three years ago when a friend took him to a tournament in Idaho. He placed second in his first tournament and was hooked. He started fishing at age three, according to his mother, Cindy.
"I wouldn't be here without my family; they helped get me to Idaho and here," Messer said. "They were a big help. It makes you realize how good of a family you have."
And, there is no doubt that bass tournament fishing is in his future, as well. He already counts Berkley, Pier Fishing, Dry Creek Outfitters and FlipClip among his sponsors.
"Winning the championship is awesome," he said. "It makes you want to do well in school and go to college. I want to learn the business side of fishing and learn how to market myself."
Keith, Williamson anchor TBF wins
Jay Keith of Camden and Adam Williamson of Ridgeway led the South Carolina team to victory in The Bass Federation Southern Division Championship on Lake Murray in June, and then they led the Wateree Bassmasters to victory in The Bass Federation South Carolina 6-Man Team Tournament on Lake Wateree in October.
Keith and Williamson finished first and second, respectively, in the Southern Division Championship and will represent South Carolina in the TBF National Championship in April.
Keith finished first in the 6-Man Tournament with 14.48 pounds, and Williamson was fourth with 11.38 pounds at Lake Wateree as the two highest finishers for Wateree Bassmasters. Williamson also had the second big fish of the tournament at 4.61 pounds.
"It took some teamwork to win it, for sure," Williamson said, noting that his team was behind the 8-ball from the start. "One of the co-anglers failed to show up the first day, and that disqualified him and the angler he was paired with, so we were fishing four against six on the other teams."
Donald Hinson of Lugoff, who was the angler disqualified because his co-angler did not appear, decided to fish the Carolina Anglers Team Tournament that Saturday instead.
"He finished third with 11 pounds, 4 ounces, and won $100 in the CATT. That definitely would have boosted us a good bit since we were down nine pounds after the first day."
Williamson weighed in four fish the first day, catching two on a Pop-R early and two larger bass, including the 4½-pounder, later in the day on a jig.
"Every fish I caught came out of less than a foot-and-a-half of water, and the two biggest ones were in less than a foot of water. The lake was turning over, and there was a lot of dead bait floating. All the fish were biting very shallow," Williamson said.
On the second day, he tried to fish a rattling bait on rocky points, but the trolling motor died from trying to keep the boat positioned in a stiff wind and he landed only one fish.
Clemson 10th in regional
Andy Wicker and Erin Schumpert, teammates on the Clemson University Bass Fishing Team, would have loved to have had another day or two of practice before the National Guard FLW College Fishing Southeast Regional Championship on Florida's Lake Monroe Nov. 21-23.
"We only had one practice day, and a lot of the teams that finished in the top five put in their time practicing," said Wicker. "It was hard to find a backup pattern in case the wind blew, and unfortunately, the wind did blow.
Wicker said he and Schumpert spent most of the first day of the tournament practicing.
"We came across a flipping pattern around lunch-time. We started catching fish on a Sweet Beaver, flipping bulrushes and reeds on the north side of the lake in 1½ to two feet of water," he said.
The area they found the fish was different from most of the rest of the lake, he said, with the bulrushes offering the only cover for the bass to hide. By the end of the first day, they had caught four or five bass, including three keepers that weighed 4-15, and they felt they had a real shot at making a high finish.
"But the second day, the wind was blowing, and we had 2- to 3-foot high waves coming in on us. That killed the fishing, and we only caught two fish for 2 pounds, 15 ounces," Wicker said.
The Clemson team finished in 10th place with 7-14. Jonathan LeDoux and Wyatt Hammond on the Coastal Carolina University Team, finished 15th with 5-5.
Jake Gipson and Matthew Wercinski of the University of Florida had 22-5 and added five bass that weighed 7-12 ounces in the championship round to win with 30-1.
Three SC anglers will fish Classic
Two South Carolina pros will make repeat appearances in the Bassmaster Classic when the 2010 world championship of bass fishing is held Feb. 19-21 on Georgia's Lake Lanier, along with a North Carolina angler who fishes on the South Carolina Bassmaster Federation Nation Team.
Casey Ashley of Donalds will be making his third-straight appearance. Ashley finished 17th in 2008 on Lake Hartwell and 13th in 2009 on Louisiana's Red River.
Jason Quinn of Lake Wylie will make his fifth Classic appearance. He finished 47th in 2002 and 21st in 2003, then sixth in 2004 on Lake Wylie and ninth in 2007.
Representing South Carolina, Brent Long of Cornelius, N.C, will be making his second Classic appearance. His first classic was in 2007 where he finished 49th.
Long weighed in 12 bass at 28 pounds even to finish first in the Southern Division and fourth overall in the 2009 Bassmaster Federation Nation Championship on the Harris Chain of Lakes Oct. 28-30.
Odom earns check in Stren event
Rookie Dane Odom of Chapin was the only South Carolina angler to finish in the money at the Stren Series Championship on Alabama's Pickwick Lake Nov. 6-7. Odom weighed in a 2-day limit of 10 bass at 22 pounds, 9 ounces, to finish 34th and win $2,500.
Patrick Cook of Johnsonville was the only South Carolina co-angler to finish in the money, weighing seven bass for two days at 12-7 to finish 48th and win $850.
Mark Rose of Marion, Ark., led wire-to-wire to win the title and the $115,000 first prize with a three-day total of 15 bass that weighed 55 pounds, 1 ounce.
Walls are top crappie team
Rod Wall and Braxton Wall of Ninety Six weighed in 7.44 pounds to win the Adult-Youth Division and place fifth overall in the Southern Crappie Association Tournament on North Carolina's Badin and Tillery Lakes on Oct. 31.
The Walls pole-jigged minnows and white Jiffy Jigs around docks and over brush piles on Badin Lake. They won $50.
Other South Carolina teams who placed included Dan Grow and James Jackson of Lancaster, fourth with 7.48 for $215, and Russell Riley of Columbia and Allen Outlaw of Camden, eighth with 6.58 pounds for $120.
Carolina Anglers Team Trail
Lake Murray, Oct. 31, 2009
1. Andy Owens(Camden), 5 fish, 12-5, including 4-12 big fish, $777; 2. Chris Sample-Larry Martin (Lexington), 5, 11-1, $210; 3. Alan Ray-Mike Branch (Columbia) 10-15, $90; 4. Sean Anderson (Saluda)-George Berry (Batesburg), 9-9, includig 3-9 second big fish, $48.
Lake Murray, Nov. 7, 2009
1. Sean Anderson (Saluda)-George Berry (Batesburg), 5, 13-6, including 3-13 second big fish, $733; 2. Mike Powers-Jake Frick (Lexington), 5, 12-11, including 4-12 big fish, $322; 3. Steve Wicker-Don McDaniels (Pomaria), 12-4, $90.
Waccamaw River, Nov. 7, 2009
1. Carlton Thompkins-Timmy Thompkins (Myrtle Beach), 5, 10.30 pounds, $325; 2. Smithy Smith-Don Rodchester (Conway), 5, 8.95, including 2.75-pound second big fish, $208; 3. Mike Gerald-Ritchie Beverly (Conway), 8.55 pounds, including 3.60-pound big fish, $77.
Lake Wylie, Nov. 7, 2009
1. Joe Hansil-Chester Ragland (Gastonia, N.C.), 5, 16-2, including 4-11 second big fish, $492; 2. Mike Stone (Gastonia, N.C.), 5, 12-5, $200; 3. Chris Carroll-Larry Denton (Kings Mountain, N.C.), 12-4, including 5-1 big fish, $98; 4. Tom Russell-Doug Gilmer (Fort Mill), 12-4, $40.
Lake Wateree, Nov. 14, 2009
1. Randall Diggers (Turbeville)-Josh McGregor (Timmonsville), 5, 15-3, including 4-8 second big fish, $966, plus $120 fall points bonus. 2. Jimmy McFarland-Calvin Griggs (Hartsville), 5, 14-3, including 5-9 big fish, $454; 3. Jay Keith (Camden)-Donald Hinson (Lugoff), 5, 13-6, $200; 4. Darryl Clark-Steve Borton (Sumter/Shaw AFB), 12-4, $100.
Lake Murray, Nov. 21, 2009
1. Sean Anderson (Saluda)-George Berry (Batesburg), 5, 14-4, including 5-5 big fish, $548; 2. Mark McCormick (Chapin)-Howard Stephens (Columbia), 5, 10-3, $200; 3. Matt West-Corey Sligh (Newberry), 8-12; 4. Phillip Anderson-Andy Lake (Saluda), 8-11, plus 3-7 second big fish, $42.
Lake Wylie, Nov. 21, 2009
1. Eric Weir (Belmont, N.C.)-John Paul George (Rock Hill), 5, 19-5, $920 including $320 bonus; 2. Larry Denton-Chris Carroll (Kings Mountain, N.C.), 5, 17-3, $360; 3. Stacy Richards (Conover, N.C.)-Brian Triplett (Lenoir, N.C.), 15-14, $250; 4. Michael Carson-Matt Stout (Gastonia, N.C.), 15-3, $130; Mack Homesly (Charlotte, N.C.)-Junior Allen (Star, N.C.), 5, 15-3, $100. Big fish: Louie Hull (Casar, N.C.)-Chuck Montgomery (Blacksburg), 4-15, $203; Second big fish: Chster Ragland (Gastonia, N.C.), 4-14, $87.
American Bass Anglers District 96 Tournament
Clarks Hill, Nov. 22, 2009
1. Curtis Temples (Saluda), 5, 10.53 pounds, including 4.10-pound big fish, $653; 2. Ryan McMurtury (Abbeville), 5, 8.66, $337; 3. Phillip Anderson (Saluda), 5, 8.61, $91.
Fishers of Men - South Carolina Upstate
Feb. 6, Lake Hartwell; March 6, Clarks Hill; March 27, Lake Hartwell; April 25, Lake Murray; May 15, Lake Russell.
Contact: Rodney Floyd, 843-283-1230, e-mail: RodneyFloyd@fomntt.com
Entry fee: $150/team
Membership: Associate $15; Team $40; Gold $55
Fishers of Men - South Carolina Lowcountry
Feb. 27, Lake Murray, Dreher Island State Park; March 27, Santee Cooper, Canal Lakes Fish Camp; April 17, Santee Cooper, Canal Lakes Fish Camp; May 15, Lake Murray, Dreher Island State Park; June 12, Lake Murray, Dreher Island State Park.
Contact: Bobby Jackson, 803-917-6316
Entry fee: $150/team
Membership: Associate $15; Team $40; Gold $55
Fishers of Men - South Carolina Legacy Series
March 20, Lake Hartwell; April 17, Lake Murray; May 1, Waccamaw River; May 29 Fontana Lake.
Contact: Bill Cochensparger, (419) 222-8338, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Entry fee: $75/team
Legacy Series Membership - $30; Gold Membership - $55
The Bass Federation of SC
Feb. 27, Lake Murray, Billy Dreher Island Park; March 27, Santee Cooper, John C. Land; April 24, Lake Greenwood, Dam Ramp; May 22, Lake Russell, 72 Ramp; Sept. 11, Lake Wateree, Clearwater Cove; Sept. 25, Mr. Lake Murray Open Team Tournament, Billy Dreher Island Park; Oct. 16, T BA, 6-Man Team Tournament; Nov. 13, Clarks Hill, Dorn Ramp.
Contact: Herman Vining, President, (803) 600-2379, email: HermanVining@aol.com; Kevin Thivierge, Tournament Director, (803) 516-1567, email: email@example.com
Entry fee: $125 anglers, $75 co-anglers, $660 per six-man team
Tournament directors: Send your schedules and your tournament results in the format shown as soon as possible after your tournaments. Results MUST include names, hometowns, number of fish caught, total weight, prize money and big fish information. Email to Pat Robertson: firstname.lastname@example.org.