GILBERTSVILLE – Tristan Barrett and Evan Bremmerkamp got the best of an uncooperative bunch of bass and won the KHSAA state bass fishing championship Friday and Saturday at Kentucky Lake.
The home team from Marshall County High School boated five fish weighing 17 pounds, 12 ounces on Friday, second best of the 68 two-person teams of anglers, and then weighed three bass totaling nine pounds, 15 ounces on Saturday.
Their total of 27-11 was comfortably ahead of second-place Blake Harold and Cameron Cochran of Madison Southern, who caught only one fish on Saturday after taking the lead Friday with five fish weighing 19-8. They finished with a 21-7 two-day total.
Jackson Purchase schools took three of the top-five spots, with Calloway County’s Dylan Bell and Jacob Hudgin third and McCracken County’s Tyler Lillevig and Hunter Valerius each bringing in a total of 20-1. Calloway took third based on having the edge in their biggest fish on each of the two days of fishing.
Carson Recke and Jackson Kulijof of Muhlenberg County rounded out the top five.
It’s the first state title for Marshall County, which was one of the driving forces in the establishment of bass fishing as a KHSAA sport six years ago. Benton-based FLW Fishing provided its tournament presentation expertise, and the first state tournament was held in 2013.
“Man, it’s like something out of a fairy tale,” said Marshals coach Nick Binns. “To compete with that many teams and pull that out, it’s incredible.”
The winners, on the way to the Saturday weigh-in, admitted their spirits were down.
“We were thinking on the way in to the weigh-in that we were beat,” said Chad Barrett, Tristan’s father and boat caption for the team.
“I really didn’t expect [to take the lead], coming in with only three fish,” Bremmerkamp said, “because they [Harold and Cochran] had done so well on Friday. I figured they’d bring in another big sack.”
Instead, the first-day leaders – like almost every other team – found themselves in the doldrums, with nothing but small fish biting.
Only two teams weighed five fish on Saturday, and their weights – 13-3 and 12-8 – were modest.
The surprise was extremely pleasant for the Marshal anglers.
“Man, I was extremely happy,” Tristan Barrett said. “I felt blessed out there. We gave it our all, and out of the blue it happened to be a bad day for everybody else.”
Bremmerkamp was happy for the Marshals coach, Binns, in his second year at the helm of the MCHS program.
“For him to come into this deal pretty new, it probably means more to him than anything else,” Bremmerkamp said.
Chad Barrett said he was going to load the boat when someone notified them that they were in position to win.
“We were ecstatic,” he said.
The winners said fishing was essentially done by 10 a.m. Saturday.
“The bite shut down at probably 9:30 or 10 o’clock,” Bremmerkamp said. “We didn’t catch any keepers after that. We had the three fish that we weighed by 10 o’clock.”
On Friday, though, the team had a lucky break when they landed a big fish and were able to release a smaller one, boosting their first-day total by some three pounds, Chad Barrett estimated.
“The lake’s been fishing tough,” Chad Barrett said. “I felt sorry for all those boys from Madison Southern out there today. They came over and said congratulations to us.”
Barrett and Bremmerkamp were the third of three Marshal teams to qualify for the state tournament. They finished 10th in the Region 1 tournament April 21 on Lake Barkley, with a catch of two bass weighing eight pounds, 13 ounces.
Davis Smith and Garrett Hicks, who placed fifth in the regional tourney, ended up in 61st place Saturday while Gage Lynch and Sam Mann, who were eighth in the regional, placed 35th.
Rounding out the top 10 were Dalton Wilson-Brennan Peters (Ohio County), six fish, 17-8; Wyatt Pearman-Evan Morris (LaRue County), six fish, 16-13; Andrew Greene-Anthony Ethridge (Trigg County), seven fish, 16-11; Conner Johnson-Cameron Brady (Bourbon County), six fish, 16-3; and Sam Clark-Hannah Wesley (Boyle County), six fish, 16-2.
Cameron Cochran of Madison Southern and Cameron Brady of Bourbon County tied for the Big Bass, each with a bass weighing five pounds, three ounces.
The Midway University/KHSAA Female Student-Athlete of the Year award went to Morgan Miracle of Garrard County.
It was the second year in a row that the duo of Blake Harold and Cameron Cochran of Madison Southern finished second in the state tourney. They caught 10 fish weighing 36-15 last year, only to be bested by Taylor Harris and Braxton Beasley of Muhlenberg County, who had a tournament-record catch of 38-10.
Last year was the second championship title for Muhlenberg, which swept the top two spots in 2015. Billy Hardison and Nathan Flener took first place with a 33-11 catch, and Harris and Drew Mendoza were second with 29-13.
In the six state tournaments, Muhlenberg County has had at least one team in the top five every year.
Marshall County’s victory brings the state championship title back to the Jackson Purchase and Region 1 of the four KHSAA regions for the first time since Calloway County took the inaugural tournament in 2013.
The previous best finish for a Marshall County boat in the state tournament was ninth, by James Gibbs and Aidan Cox, in the inaugural tournament in 2013.
Peyton Porter and Shane Barrett took 12th in 2014, and Porter and Colton Story were 15th in 2015.
Porter teamed with Barret Washburn for a 16th-place finish in 2016, and Marshall teams of Conor Washburn-Riley Harris and Tanner Martin-Gavin Grant placed 21st and 22nd in last year’s tournament.