By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
A pair of Hilldale Hornets have moved themselves into position to be world bass fishing champions at the high school level.
Based on Friday’s third round, they have momentum on their side in what’s being billed as the High School Fishing World Finals, being held on Lake Dardenelle at Russellville, Ark.
As they did the first two days of competition, Blake Capps and Josh Giem reeled in the five-fish limit on Friday. But the 18-pound, 5-ounce haul was by far their best catch. They had 10-14 and 11-13, in order, on Wednesday and Thursday and were 22nd at that point.
But after the first two rounds, weights were zeroed and the top two teams from each state advanced to the semifinals on Friday. The remainder of the field fished for a second chance in the final. The top 10 teams from the semifinals automatically advanced and then the top 10 overall, making for today’s 20-team final.
With a victory today the pair could each have $1,000 per year toward the school of their choice. For Giem, that will be Connors State. Capps is a junior at Hilldale.
“One spot we saved for today,” Capps said, noting a ledge in the lake. “I knew when we got our limit by 9 a.m. it was going to be our best day by far.”
Capps and his dad Robert fished that spot on Monday. His six-pounder in that spot was the biggest they reeled in on Friday, caught on a crankbait.
“The first day I thought would be good but we lost a few right at the top, and day two was a grind,” Blake Capps said.
Give Giem — who didn’t get but one practice session on Tuesday — an asterisk for best catch, though. He reeled in a five-pounder along with a two-pounder on the same cast.
“I didn’t get here until Monday night and we could have turned in a big bag from practice on Tuesday, so heading into the tournament on Wednesday we thought we’d do pretty good,” Giem said. “We didn’t get our limits until like an hour before weigh-in so both days were a scramble for us.”
They shifted to crank baits and jigs after starting Friday off with frogs going up the channel of the Arkansas River.
The two won the Student Angler Federation (SAF) Oklahoma High School Fishing State Championship on Grand Lake in April to qualify for the world finals.
Bailey Britt and Jerod Keith of Benton, La., are in second. This is their third appearance in the tournament.
The final weigh-in for the High School Fishing World Finals is at 2:30 p.m. today. The event is being live-streamed on highschoolfishing.org and bassfederation.com.