WALKER, LA (WAFB) - Four students from the Walker High School have traveled to Kentucky Lake in Paris, Tennessee this week to compete in the Bassmaster High School Series National Championship.
This year the Walker High Fishing Team, comprised of 22 students, won second place in the Louisiana State Championship out of 247 teams.
High school fishing teams are made up of several two-man teams that compete in five tournaments during the season.
Follow the progress of the Walker High School Fishing Team at the national championship by clicking here
Sophomore Hanson Chaney and junior Bronson Beck were ranked the number one BASS Fishing team in Louisiana by overall points earned.
"There's going to be 300 boats, a lot of competition, it's going to be stiff, it's going to be hard, but we got to pull through it," Chaney said.
Seniors Hunter Kogel and Mason Ferachi are also competing in the national championship.
"I'm just excited. I've been through it all, I've had bad tournaments, had good tournaments, and just ready to go out there and do good," Kogel told WAFB.
All four students are fired up to represent their school while doing the activity they love the most.
But none have lost sight of the hard work and techniques that have got them this far.
"It's practice. Some people say it's luck but it's not. It's really practice. I got tired of my dad kicking my butt every weekend. I took and saw what he did and tried to make it better. And hopefully did it," Chaney explained.
"Throughout the season we do a lot of research on upcoming tournaments. We watch YouTube videos, read articles. We talk about each other at the table," Kogel said.
"It's dedication. I mean it takes a lot of it. You got to spend a lot of time doing what we do," Beck said.
Chaney said with the national championship on his mind, he doesn't take a day off from fishing.
"I try to do it every day. I go out there and try to learn new things. I have a pond in my backyard. I go out there every day trying to learn things."
Many of the 22 students on the Walker High Fishing Team have left positions on conventional sports teams, like football and baseball, to fish competitively.
"Well, I really stopped playing baseball for this. I mean they both take up a lot of time, you got to choose which one to do more. And I kind of edged towards fishing more," Beck explained.
"Before fishing, I played football and it really wasn't the sport for me. After football practice, I'd go home and I'd pick up my rod and go to different ponds around Walker," Kogel said.
Make no mistake, competition fishing is a serious physical challenge.
"There's a lot of casting involved, it is physical. During a tournament, you'll probably make 200, 300 casts a day, maybe even more. There's a lot of techniques you need to learn. It's not just slinging a rod in the water and calling it a day," Kogel explained.
But perhaps one of the most rewarding aspects of high school fishing is it allows the parents to participate directly in their children's competitions.
"It's a great opportunity to spend a whole lot of time with your kids. I mean you're in pretty close quarters. Most boats are about 20 ft in length. So, they can't get away from you. So, when you need to have those serious talks with them and they may try to run and hide, the best time to do it is in a boat," team sponsor Jeremy Ferachi explained.
Jeremy will be coaching his son, Mason Ferachi and teammate Hunter Kogel, this week at the national championship. But that hasn't always been the plan.
Hunter Kogel and Jason McMillian competed together ALL season and qualified for the tournament together.
But unfortunately, Jason injured in a car accident earlier this summer, preventing him from competing on the grand stage.
So, he enlisted help from Mason.
"I'm honored to take Jason's spot. I've wanted to get to nationals for a couple of years now and I missed it by the skin of my teeth. Twice. And I was honored that he would ask me. And I plan to give it all I got for him. And to help Hunter out, it's his last year. We plan to go win this thing," Mason Ferachi said.
"And I would like to have a special thanks to my partner Jason, who unfortunately couldn't be here but I'm very blessed to have spent time with him and I've had a great time fishing with him. It's been a blast. And I just couldn't do anything without him," Kogel said.