MIFFLINBURG - For the first time, a Pennsylvania high school has earned the title of national champion in an activity not usually associated with athletics - bass fishing.
Nick Osman and Garrett Enders, both of Mifflinburg, are members of the Susquehanna Valley Fishing Team. They fished hard during the Bassmaster High School Championship, held in late July at Kentucky Lake and Carroll County Recreational Lake Dam in Tennessee.
Sixty high school teams entered, but only one - Mifflinburg - was crowned national champion.
JESSICA WELSHANS/Sun-Gazette Correspondent
Nick Osman, left, and Garrett Enders make up the two-man team that won the Bassmaster High School Championship event held in late July on two southern waterways. According to a spokesperson for the team, this is the first year that a Pennsylvania high school has entered the national competition.
Garrett Enders, left, Nick Osman, both seniors at Mifflinburg High School, hold some of the bass they caught.
Both 17, Osman and Enders are seniors at the school.
"It's the best feeling in the world. There is nothing better than it," Osman said. "It has opened up so many opportunities for me."
He and Enders have been offered scholarships to Bethel University, which they plan to accept. They want to join the collegiate team there.
"Our dream is to fish pro," Osman said.
The young men are well on their way. Winning the championship has given them a competitive edge and positive attitude that they want to pass down to other youths.
"At this level, it's pretty serious for the boys when you have boats and scholarships on the line, it's a really serious tournament," said Tom Prowant, program adviser and team coach.
Prowant said Pennsylvania only is in its first year of participating in high school tournament fishing.
"I love the competitiveness. Before I discovered bass fishing, I was big into football and baseball ... the competitiveness isn't much different, but I love the aspect of it in bass fishing. People don't consider fishing a sport, but it is," Enders said.
Osman played football before he found a love for competitive bass fishing. When he was playing football, he planned to continue with the sport in college. However, fishing has since won over football.
"I started fishing, and the competitiveness of bass fishing - not only is it mental but it's physically (demanding) I mean, you are fishing for seven days straight," he said.
Those who think that sitting in a boat and casting a line is easy might want to reconsider, they say.
"The physical aspect is you are getting up seven days in a row at 3 in the morning and fishing for 15 hours," Enders said. "You are out there losing fish and trying to make the right decision. It's one giant mind game."
Prowant agrees that "it's a lot of hard work."
Their coach also helps organize the Susquehanna Valley Fishing Team, which encompasses teams from throughout the Susquehanna Valley. Anglers hail from Montoursville, Warrior Run, Milton, Mifflinburg and plenty of towns in between.
"My program consists of a lot of dads that take team members out. We schedule times to fish. Some days I don't have Garrett and Nick with me; on those days, they fish with other guys," Prowant said. "I am pretty good at fishing, but some other guys have better ideas or skills than I do. That is how we teach the kids in this program to be better fishermen."
There's a skill in finding just the right lure to use, Enders said. Practicing with it helps boost confidence, which is necessary when fishing. Confident helps win championships, he added.
"I have so much confidence with a jig. Confidence is a big part of fishing, because if you don't have confidence in a lure, you probably won't catch anything," Enders said. "If you know you caught a fish on it before, you can just feel that you know you can catch a fish on it again. That really helps. With a jig, I feel like I can catch a fish with every cast."
The program has been massively successful, Prowant said. This club and the Junior BASS Club have earned junior world and state championships.
But it's not just about spending hours fishing for fun and prizes.
The organization teaches youth to reach for their goals, achieve them, pass their success on to others and be stand-up heroes to others who can follow in their footsteps.
"It's an awesome feeling. Last week, Garrett and I looked on Twitter and there was this 6-year-old kid who said, 'Congrats, guys ... I hope to be like you guys in 10 years.' That put a smile on my face, to know that little kids are looking up at us now," Osman said.
"(To them) we are heroes," he added. "I have been thinking about that a lot that is what I want to be, kids looking up to be me and (see me) making good decisions in my life."
"(I) want everyone to know how proud I am of the boys," Prowant said. "They had about three or four times they could have throw in the towel and they didn't. They fished to the end and made three decisions down there that won the event. You can't give up in this sport everything happens so fast."
When they aren't out competing the two young men can be found on local waters, pulling in small- and largemouth bass and enjoying their championship. They may be out practicing and fine-tuning their skills, but they are fishing - something they truly love.