Morganton teen makes prestigious list
Twelve of the top high school anglers in the country have been selected as new members of the notable Bassmaster High School All-American Fishing Team presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors.
“For seven years, the Bassmaster High School All-American program has identified and honored some of the most accomplished student athletes in the country,” said Bruce Akin, B.A.S.S. CEO. “We’ve seen past members go on to decorated college fishing careers and even compete in the iconic Bassmaster Classic, and know that this group of 12 outstanding All-Americans is equally as talented. We appreciate Academy Sports + Outdoors for partnering with B.A.S.S. to recognize these athletes’ fishing skills and commitment to academics, conservation and community service.”
Over 300 applications nominating students in grades 10-12 were submitted from 34 states across the nation. Of these, 47 students were chosen as Bassmaster All-State anglers. After considering tournament résumés, conservation efforts, community service activities and recommendations from school officials and coaches, a panel of judges consisting of representatives from the sportfishing industry, media and conservation groups further narrowed the field to the Top 12 high school anglers in the country.
“Congratulations to our newest Bassmaster High School All-Americans,” said Hank Weldon, senior manager of the B.A.S.S. High School program. “Our program is exclusive to only the most well-rounded and driven high school anglers, and each of these 12 young anglers and their parents should be proud of this accomplishment. I am looking forward to honoring their achievements at the Neely Henry Elite in May.”
The 2021 All-American team has been invited to participate in an exclusive Bassmaster High School All-American Tournament, which will be held in conjunction with the 2021 Bassmaster Elite at Neely Henry Lake, scheduled to take place May 6-9 in Gadsden, Ala. Each All-American angler will be paired with an Elite Series pro for the one-day derby to be held on a nearby fishery.
Congratulations to the following student athletes for being named to the 2021 Bassmaster High School All-American Fishing Team presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors. Following are short biographies of the 2021 team members. (Only tournament records from the past 12 months were considered.)
Alexis Grandstaff, Headland, Ala.
Alexis Grandstaff, a senior at Headland High School, amassed an impressive two wins in the 2020 tournament season as well as 10 Top 5 finishes and 10 Top 20 finishes. She is a two-time Bassmaster High School National Championship Qualifier (2019 and 2021) as well as the recipient of two Big Fish Awards at Lake Wedowee and Lake Eufaula.
“She has proven herself a fierce competitor in the field of high school bass fishing,” says Shannon V. Smith, Headland Bass Team Head Coach. “She has continuously excelled in her academics and leadership roles. She has been a trusted friend and Bass Team member to many. All of these qualities and more are what make Alexis Grandstaff a top candidate for the Top 12 Bassmaster High School All-American.”
Grandstaff has also served as the Headland Bass Team Secretary, Treasurer and President. Two of her goals were to qualify for the Alabama B.A.S.S. Nation High School Championship and the Bassmaster High School National Championship — since accomplishing both of those goals, she has now set her sights on qualifying for the Bassmaster High School Classic.
Hayden Marbut, Vestavia, Ala.
Hayden Marbut, a senior at Vestavia High School, joins the ranks of the 2021 Bassmaster High School All-American team after netting two first-place finishes in the past 12 months, including winning the 2020 Bassmaster High School National Championship against a 250-plus boat field. He has also racked up seven Top 5 finishes and nine Top 20 finishes.
“In my field, I have met many hardworking, determined, motivated, energetic and intelligent students,” says Curtis Gossett, Briarwood Christian School Fishing Coach. “However, I have never met one as humble, confident and deserving as Hayden Marbut. I can say, undoubtedly, that Hayden will not only succeed in his pursuit of his fishing goals, but in his pursuit of an education and in life as well.”
Marbut not only excels on the water, but he also acts as the captain of the Vestavia Hills High School bass team. He plans to fish on the collegiate level for Auburn University and also fish the Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens in hopes of one day qualifying for the Bassmaster Elite Series.
Zachary Ward, Cabot, Ark.
Cabot High School senior Zachary Ward won three tournaments in the 2020 season as well as an impressive eight Top 5 finishes. The 2020 All-State angler has found success both on the water and in the classroom, maintaining a 3.8 GPA.
“Zach’s combination of academic achievement, leadership and personal character make him an ideal candidate,” says Lindsey Peerson, Cabot High School Algebra 3 teacher. “He is an active member in numerous clubs, some of which include Student Council, National Honor Society and the Cabot Community Fishing Club.”
Ward is not only a leader on the water and in the classroom, but the community as well. He has participated in Heroes Hooked on Fishing, where he helps veterans learn how to fish, and participated in fishing derbies with younger anglers where he acts as a mentor.
Cole Rountree, Clermont, Fla.
Cole Rountree, a junior at South Lake High School, won two tournaments in the 2020 season, as well as netting ten Top 5 finishes and seven Top 20 finishes. He has placed 5th place or higher in every tournament he has participated in during the 2020 and 2021 tournament seasons.
“Cole excels academically and currently maintains a weighted grade point average of 4.65,” says Steven W. Benson II, South Lake High School principal. “I have been excited to hear about Cole’s exploits and successes as an angler, as well as his nonprofit work in the community, including the Buses and Backpacks program and Florida Scrub Jay Youth Camp.”
Rountree is still fairly new to the fishing game, having only picked up fishing in the last three years. In his first year, he earned 5th place in Angler of the Year for the Lake County Teen Sportfishing Association. By his second year, he won Angler of the Year, and he currently holds that same position. His fishing goals include qualifying for state in the B.A.S.S. Nation High School Series, qualifying for the Bassmaster High School National Championship, fishing on the collegiate level and eventually pursuing his dream of competing on the national level.
Tyson Verkaik, Eustis, Fla.
First Academy-Leesburg junior Tyson Verkaik has amassed an impressive three tournament wins, one Top 5 finish and four Top 20 finishes in the 2020 season. Verkaik and his partner finished 2nd in the 2019 Florida Federation Fall Regional which qualified them for the 2020 Bassmaster High School National Championship.
“Tyson is self-motivated with a unique understanding of academia,” says Kelly L. Bonaparte, First Academy-Leesburg Marine Science teacher. “He is able to readily draw from his studies and observations to develop thoughtful responses. Tyson is constantly challenging himself to perform better. He is very mature for his age and he approaches his studies with an astute sense of objectivity.”
Verkaik is an active member of the National Honor Society and very involved in the Student Government Association. He is a citizen volunteer with the University of Florida Lake Watch program where he regularly submits field reports and water samples from his home lake (Lake Woodward) to the University of Florida laboratory for testing and research. Verkaik and his partner are currently ranked in the top spot in the Florida State Trail and hope to return to the Bassmaster High School National Championship.
Laindree Richardson, Benton, Ill.
Laindree Richardson, a junior at Benton Consolidated High School, claimed two first-place finishes, as well as three Top 5 finishes and four Top 20 finishes in the 2020 tournament season. She has competed at every single Bassmaster High School Open in the past three years and plans to continue her success on the collegiate level at Wabash Valley College upon graduation.
“Though Laindree loves to fish, she loves her community even more,” says Lacey Hagerman, Benton Consolidated High School English teacher. “When COVID unexpectedly hit our country in March of last year, Laindree worked to sew over 3,000 masks. She then donated these masks to hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, navy squadrons, youth detention facilities and to local schools. Laindree is the type of strong, female role model that little girls need. She is selfless and unafraid to face new challenges.”
Richardson was selected as a 2020 Bassmaster High School All-State angler and put in hard work on the water, in the classroom and in her community to earn her the title of 2021 Bassmaster High School All-American angler.
Mitchell Straffon, Fenton, Mich.
Mitchell Straffon, a junior at Fenton High School, captured three wins during the 2020 season as well as three Top 5 and two Top 20 finishes. Straffon also competed in a local adult-level tournament series, Cash For Bass, where he notched two wins and three Top 5 finishes. He is a two-time Bassmaster High School National Championship qualifier and placed fourth overall in the Michigan B.A.S.S. Nation Team Tournament in 2020.
Vera Hazlett, a teacher at Fenton High School, says, “Mitchell is always willing to take the lead in the discussion and encourage his classmates to participate. This is typical of Mitchell’s dedication to his commitments; he is thorough and dedicated to quality and meaning.”
In 2020, Straffon volunteered at the Michigan Ultimate Fishing Show and several Bassmaster Elite Series events as well as with the Fenton Fire Department Food Pantry. Alongside fishing and volunteer work, Straffon works a part-time job and plays on his high school’s junior varsity golf team, all whilst maintaining a 3.76 GPA.
Cole Moulton, Enfield, N.H.
Cole Moulton, a junior at Mascoma Valley Regional High School, netted three wins in the 2020 tournament season as well as one Top 20 finish. He is a three-time qualifier for the Bassmaster High School National Championship (2019-2021) and a two-time qualifier for the Bassmaster Junior National Championship (2017-2018). Moulton started a community fishing club in order to compete in high school fishing tournaments. In 2020 this club became the official bass fishing team of Mascoma High School, where he serves as team captain.
“He personally petitioned for our school to attain ‘club’ status in New Hampshire for a Bass Fishing Team. With Cole as a catalyst, Mascoma High School has begun the process of making fishing a varsity-level sport,” says Keli S. Green, Mascoma Varsity soccer coach, driver educator and mathematics teacher.
Moulton also serves as president of the New Hampshire Junior Bassmasters and plays defensive position on the Mascoma Varsity Soccer Team, where he was selected by his teammates to serve as co-captain during his senior year.
Carter Doren, Las Vegas, Nev.
Green Valley High School junior Carter Doren won four tournaments in the 2020 tournament season, including the BBZ JC National Championship. BBZ JC Tournament Director William Siemantel describes Doren’s win, “His attitude and demeanor was nothing less than a seasoned professional that had grace and poise. He showed no ego, was gracious to all the supporting sponsors and showed professional respect to all of his competing anglers.”
Additionally, Doren was the 2020 Co-Angler of the Year for the Nevada Bass Anglers, an adult fishing club, where he placed in the Top 5 multiple times. Off the water, he is the social media director for his high school’s fishing club and is working to develop the local adult fishing club’s social media presence as well. And, although he is only a junior, Doren has already received a $38,000 scholarship to Bethel University for fishing.
Doren has also developed and run a fishing seminar for high school kids at his local pond, where he helped give away rods, reels and baits to youth and junior anglers who did not have the proper equipment. He has also volunteered with Bass Pros Shops’ Bluegill Tank teaching local children about catch-and-release techniques.
Hunter Keller, Morganton, N.C.
Hunter Keller, a senior at Freedom High School, won three tournaments in the 2020 season, as well as two Top 5s and three Top 20s, including a sixth-place finish in the Bassmaster High School National Championship, which featured a field of 240-plus boats. He also competed in the Foothills Marine Tuesday Night Tournaments, where in the span of 15 tournaments he won once, placed in the Top 5 twice and secured an additional five Top 10 finishes.
“His passion for fishing led him to start the Freedom High School Bass Team,” said Dustin Haigler, Freedom High School club advisor. “Since its initiation, the club has performed exceptionally well in tournaments but also in reaching out to help serve local businesses and supporters, all of which Hunter has had a direct influence over.”
Keller was the highest-placing Yamaha Engine in the Bassmaster High School National Championship, which netted him $10,000 through the Yamaha Power Pay program. He was the eighth recruit in the nation for Top Tier Fishing and the first in the state of North Carolina. He currently sits in first place in points standings for the North Carolina High School B.A.S.S. Nation and finished in the Top 5 in 2019 and 2020. Alongside his fishing and community service work, Keller also runs his own lure-making business, Dirty Dawgs Custom Lures, works as a farmhand at a local ranch and works as a seasonal employee at a Christmas tree farm.
Connor Dunn, Lucas, Texas
Lovejoy High School junior, Connor Dunn, netted three big wins in the 2020 tournament season, all of which were against fields that featured 170-plus boats. He also placed in the Top 20 twice against fields of similar sizes. He placed eighth for the 2019-2020 Texas High School Bass Association North Division Angler of the Year and is currently in first place for the 2020-2021 Angler of the Year title.
Jasen R. Eairheart, a teacher at Lovejoy High School, says, “Whether furthering his education in demanding courses, diligently preparing for his next soccer match or fishing tournament, or sacrificing his time to better the community, Connor strives to grasp the most from life.”
Dunn is the Lovejoy High School Fishing Club leader and is also on track to earn a Service Cord before his graduation, a cord earned by completing at least 400 hours of philanthropy service during high school. His community service involvement is extensive, and he has also worked with a variety of nonprofit organizations, including but not limited to, Allen Ministerial Alliance Food Pantry, Allen Community Outreach, Amazing Grace Food Pantry, Feed My Starving Children and Operation Christmas Child. He does all this whilst being enrolled in multiple AP classes, where he maintains a 4.29 GPA.
Turner Hart, Ashland, Va.
Patrick Henry High School senior, Turner Hart, captured two tournament wins as well as eight Top 5 finishes and two Top 20s. As a junior he earned a spot in the 2020 Bassmaster High School National Championship in Tennessee. He is currently confirmed as a pro angler in the upcoming Basspro.com Bassmaster Northern Open on the James River in mid-May.
Prior to his sophomore year, Hart worked with the B.A.S.S. Nation of Virginia State Youth Director Jack Babcock to establish a high school fishing team since his school did not have one. “Turner adapts to the situations that are presented to him with an open mind, calm temperament and professional manner,” says Babcock. “Turner is a wonderful young man with the courage, strength and ability to pursue his education and professional career goals.” In his sophomore and junior year, Hart’s team finished 5th and 2nd respectively in the Virginia B.A.S.S. Nation High School State Championship.
Alongside fishing tournaments, Hart participates in cleanup activities along the Chickahominy and James River. He does so while maintaining a 3.9 GPA and playing as midfielder on the Patrick Henry High School Varsity Soccer team, where as a sophomore he was named leading scorer and offensive MVP.
JOIN THE CLUB, get unlimited access for $2.99/month
Become the most informed Sportsman you know, with a membership to the Carolina Sportsman Magazine and CarolinaSportsman.com.