Talented high school anglers from across the U.S. gathered for the second Abu Garcia Bassmaster High School Combine presented by Skeeter on Wheeler Lake in Decatur, Ala., for a weekend combining skills challenges and recruiting visits in hopes of reeling in college fishing offers. After three challenges — Casting Distance, Technical and Casting Accuracy — the combine’s overall points winner was Phillip Herring of Richton, Miss.
With a total of 288 points, the Greene County High School senior narrowly edged Bryce Distefano of Denham Springs, La., by four points. In three total challenges, Herring finished no worse than 10th place out of 98 anglers.
Herring was surprised to take home the highest honor from the High School Combine.
“It feels pretty amazing,” Herring said. “I came in expecting to have the opportunity to talk to a few colleges and maybe even get a couple of campus visits out of it, but I didn’t really have any expectations for the competition part of this event.”
Herring, who attended the combine alongside teammate Calup Williams, has qualified for three consecutive Abu Garcia Bassmaster High School National Championships presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors. The duo also fished together at the 2019 Bassmaster Junior Series National Championship, where they finished seventh.
Technical Challenge winner
In addition to winning the overall award, the south Mississippi native also took home the first-place prize in the Technical Challenge. The Technical Challenge tested each angler’s ability to maneuver a Skeeter FXR20 bass boat around an obstacle and make three pinpoint casts to floating targets.
Herring was able to blaze through the Technical Challenge in just 42 seconds to take home his second piece of hardware.
“I turned the trolling motor up wide-open and began casting at the target as I was going around the obstacle and actually hit one target before even getting around it; then I hit the last two targets with my first two flips,” Herring said when asked about his strategy.
Herring accredited his fishing strengths of flipping and pitching to his success in the Technical Challenge as well as the Casting Accuracy Challenge, where he finished fifth.
“We fish a lot of shallow tidal rivers, so we’re flipping, pitching and making short little roll casts all the time, which helped out a lot,” he said.
Herring is looking forward to his campus visits and making a final college decision.
“This event helped me a ton,” he said. “I had an idea of about five to seven schools that I was interested in, but this event has helped me narrow it down to about three schools. This combine is really great overall; getting to meet all these other anglers and talking with the coaches is amazing.”
The 2022 Abu Garcia Bassmaster High School Combine presented by Skeeter was hosted by Decatur Morgan County Tourism. You can read more about the event on Bassmaster.com.
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