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Fishing: Stolski crowned junior champion

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outdoors Brainerd, 56401

Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

CAMDEN, S.C. - Joe Stolski of Baxter captured top honors Aug. 17 at The Bass Federation Junior World Championship on South Carolina's Lake Wateree.

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The two-day event pitted state champions from six divisions across the U.S. against each other in 11-to-14 and 15-to-18-year-old age groups. On day one, the entire field competed, with the top angler from each age group in each division moving on to the final shoot out on Saturday.

"It's great to come down and win this on a Southern lake that fishes so differently than what I'm used to back home," Stolski said in a news release.

After a tough start on Day One, Stolski reeled in a 4-pound, 1-ounce bass to the scale on day Two to top the competition in the younger group.

Hot, calm conditions challenged the field on Day One, making bites elusive. It was especially tough on Stolski and his fellow Northern Division rivals, as the entire group blanked. Since TBF rules dictate birth date as the tie-breaker, with the eldest angler moving forward, Stolski got another shot at cracking Wateree's code.

"On Day One I tried a number of presentations," Stolski said. "I fished a shaky-head jig both deep and around docks, threw buzzbaits along shore, cast diving crankbaits, and tried football heads as well, with no luck."

Day two offered a bit of a break, with slightly stronger breezes and more morning cloud cover. Stolski still had faith in the shaky-head program, but realized that adjustments were in order.

"I knew I had to slow down," he says.

And so he did, patiently, until 1:30 in the afternoon, when his persistence was finally rewarded.

"I was working a 12-foot ridge top surrounded by deeper water, with a one-quarter-ounce shaky head tipped with a Zoom Trick Worm," Stolski said.

As the jig bounced bottom, Stolski detected a heaviness unlike the tug of rocks or brush.

"I pulled back, felt the fish and set the hook," he said.

The ensuing seesaw battle ended with the 4-pound, 1-ounce prize resting in his livewell.

"I didn't think it would be enough to win, because on day one another guy had 6 pounds, but I was still glad to have it," Stolski said.

As fate would have it, Stolski's ridge-top reward was enough to claim the crown. The win capped an emotional roller coaster, but Stolski has no plans to put his competitive efforts on hold. A two-year veteran of the TBF Junior Angler Program who credits his older brother, Will, for fueling his competitive fishing passion, he plans to continue to fish TBF tournaments and try his hand at SAF High School Fishing events as well.

Adding to the excitement at the championship, finalists were shuttled from the weigh-in area at Clearwater Cove Marina to the main stage of the Forrest Wood Cup at Columbia, S.C., for a TBF Junior Angler parade and champions' presentation in front of thousands of cheering fans.

Standings

11- to 14-year-olds

1. Joe Stolski, Baxter, Minn., Northern Division, one bass, 4-1, $2,500 scholarship

2. James Fields, Anthem, Ariz., Western Division, one bass, 3-13, $1,250 scholarship

3. Cole Moore, Anacoco, La., Central Division, one bass, 2-10, $750 scholarship

4. Jacob Ferrell, Vernon Hills, Va., Mid-Atlantic Division, one bass, 2-3, $375 scholarship

5. Stephen Stroz, Shrewsbury, Mass., Eastern Division, 0 bass, 0-00, $250 scholarship

6. Harrison Norman, Covington, Ga., Southern Division, 0 bass, 0-00, $200 scholarship

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