During Alabama’s B.A.S.S. National Junior State Championship fishing tournament on Friday, Opelika’s Coleman Mezick and Auburn’s Langston Martin had to do whatever it took to bring in the fish they needed — which included bringing in one bass by hand.
As challenging as the day at Lay Lake was, Mezick and Martin proved themselves worthy of being champions.
Mezick and Martin came out on top against a field of 103 boats and 206 competitors to capture the junior state championship — which features competitors from sixth grade to eighth — with a three-fish weight of 10.76 pounds. The victory means the two rising ninth graders will represent Alabama at nationals, which will be held in October at a location to be determined.
“It was really cool when we saw that we were first place,” Mezick said. “We started three years ago, and all we wanted to do was win a state championship. This was our last year of juniors, so we were like, ‘This should be our year to do it because it’s our last year. We’re the oldest and we probably have the most experience.’ We really wanted to go to the state championship and then go to nationals.”
“It was a pretty tough day. We only caught three keeper fish, but it was fun to finally win a state tournament and finally get to go to nationals,” Martin said. “We worked really hard and have been practicing a lot for that tournament. It just felt really good to finally win one like that.”
The duo — along with boat captain Allen Martin — set off on the lake at 5 a.m. Friday to chase the lake’s biggest bass before it was time to check in at 2:10 p.m. Langston Martin said they found a couple of fish early but were dealing with very few bites as the day wore on until the current started off late in the competition.
Martin felt a bite from what proved to be the winning fish later in the day when his reel malfunctioned. Rather than panic, he got innovative to make sure the team had a chance at winning it all.
“When I set the hook on it, my drag on my reel stopped working, so when I was reeling nothing was happening. I had to hand-line it in,” Martin said.
Martin and Mezick became friends through playing basketball together, and after Martin fished competitively for one year he brought Mezick on board as his partner. The two are routinely out on the lake together and putting in plenty of practice for whatever tournament is on the horizon.
As Mezick explained, there’s plenty of preparation that goes into any competition. The duo are up early on days leading up to a tournament as they try and figure out what they’ll have to do when a win is on the line.
“We get up in the morning, and when we get out on the water it just starts out with the sunrise and God,” Mezick said. “We pray before we take off, and then we get going.”
Mezick and Martin thanked God for allowing Friday to happen and their sponsors for their support, a list which includes Partners Realty, Southeastern Sealing and Striping, Topo Logistic, Amphibia and Riot Baits. The duo will set their sights next on nationals, where they hope to show out on behalf of Alabama.
“It’s big. It’s just cool to me that we’re able to represent a state and not just our own team,” Mezick said.
“It’s a really good feeling to finally be able to do that. I’ve been working hard for a while,” Martin said. “Hopefully, we can just represent Alabama really well while we’re there.”