- Associated Press - Sunday, March 12, 2017

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A 15-year-old Brandon High School angler joined the Barnett Reservoir 10-pound club in the BASS Nation High School Open.

“We knew where we were going to start so we ran up the (Pearl) river,” said Aaron Abbott of the Feb. 17 tournament. “It was a cut. There is a log where we knew we could catch fish.”

The log paid off. Both Abbott and his partner Brandon Ray, 16, soon hooked up on fish. After pulling a few in, Abbott decided to try another target.

“I threw it in the cut and was slow-rolling a spinnerbait,” Abbott said. “There’s some structure in the water about 10 feet down.

“I could feel it going through the structure and the fish hit right when it came out of the structure. It just kind of stopped my bait and took it to the side. So, I set my hook and I knew I had a fish.”

He knew it was a fish, but what kind? The fish was deep and started to dive.

“I didn’t think it was a bass because it started digging down,” Abbott said. “It took about 10 seconds for it to come to the top and I could tell it was a bass.”

The bass came to the top in short order, but it wanted to show Abbott how strong it was and made a run.

“It was short, but it was really hard,” Abbott said. “It took my pole down on the side of the boat and I couldn’t pick it up.”

After the run, the sow gave up. Abbott said his captain, Steven Bailey, had the fish netted within 45 seconds of when it took the chartreuse and white H20 spinner bait. Once they had the fish in the boat, Abbott realized he was fortunate the fight didn’t last any longer. When he released the pressure on his line, the bait fell out of the fish’s mouth.

Abbott said he caught an 8-pounder earlier in the week and judging from memory, he estimated this fish was 9 pounds. It’s the kind of fish that every Bassmaster Elite Series angler is after. But Abbott knew he and Ray weren’t going to win with what they had in the livewell.

“I was just thinking we’ve got to get back to fishing,” Abbott said. “Having a 9-pounder with only two other fish wasn’t going to help.”

The two anglers managed to fill their five-fish limit and in the final minutes, culled the smallest. At the scales, Abbott and Ray won the open with 18.63 pounds.

When the big fish hit the scale, Abbott realized what he’d caught. It settled at 10.04 pounds. According to Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks’ records, it is only one of five fish more than 10 pounds caught in tournaments at Barnett since 2003, including an 11.35 giant caught by Dalton Laster in 2016.

“This fish, I thought it was 9 (pounds), maybe a little more than 9, but I never thought it would go 10 pounds,” Abbott said. “I just put my hands over my mouth. I was in shock, really.”

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Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, https://www.clarionledger.com

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