UPTON – Reeling in more than 16 pounds of bass, Blackstone Valley Tech students placed first in the statewide Bass Fishing Competition on May 14.

Among the 26 boats in the competition on Manchaug Pond in Douglas, BVT students placed first and ninth. The students who placed first brought in a total weight of 16 pounds, 3 ounces; the students who placed ninth brought in eight pounds.

“Bass fishing is more of a challenge because they are always moving, and they are picky,” said Corey Smith, 17, a junior from Uxbridge. “They fight harder than any other fish I’ve encountered.”

The competition is just one of three bass fishing tournaments the BVT students will be participating in through June. Competitors are judged by the weight of up to five fish. Competitors are not allowed to use live bait and usually fish from boats provided by the Massachusetts Bass Federation. The second competition is at Lake Cochituate in June, and the third site has yet to be determined.

“This sport really has grown within the last 20 years,” said Smith, who is one of the founders of the club. “It’s challenging, and there is always so much to learn, you can never say, ‘I know everything about bass fish.'”

When Smith fishes, he said he prefers two styles: “power fishing,” and “finesse fishing.” Power fishing involves using a spinner bait, which displaces a lot of water when it hits the surface. Power fishing is more of a flashy style, and the bass will bite the lure in self defense or aggressive reaction. Finesse fishing is a quieter style of fishing, which involves using a smaller lure, and directly dangling it in front of the fish’s striking range.

Connor Polymeros, 17, a junior from Northbridge, said he also played a part in the startup of the bass fishing chapter at BVT.

“I knew Uxbridge High School had a bass fishing team, and I thought it would be cool to fish for our school,” said Polymeros. “I also knew it would prepare me to join a team in college.”

Polymeros said when they started the student club in 2016, they needed to register their school with Massachusetts Bass Nation, an organization that promotes the sport of bass fishing. Participating in the high school division of the competition, BVT students compete with other schools including: Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical High School, and Uxbridge High School.

“Our love of the sport really kicked off our idea of a bass fishing team, and we worked together with the administration to start a team here,” said Smith. “We called the regional director of the Bass Federation who walked us through the process.”

After a successful first season, Smith and Polymeros noticed other students were interested in joining the team so they used Twitter and the school’s daily announcements to get the word out about the club.

During their first season, there were only four club members. Now there are 19. 

Eric Morales, 18, a senior from Milford who is another original member of the club, said he was most excited about competing in the tournaments.  

“The competitive aspect really appealed to me,” said Morales.

Morales and other members of the team taught themselves to fish for bass by watching YouTube videos, and going out on the water to try out new lures and fishing techniques. Most of the members of the club fish in their free time with friends and family.

“I used to fish with my dad for trout and pan fish, but I taught myself how to bass fish,” said Morales. “Now I fish with my brother and cousin in the local lakes in Milford.”

Morales said he likes using top water lures, which are lures that float on the surface. 

“I love fishing with top water lures in the summer, because the bass jump out of the water to get the lure, so it is exciting,” said Morales.

Smith said some good places to fish in New England are Long Pond, a body of water within both Lakeville and Freetown; almost anywhere on the Cape; and New Hampshire, specifically Lake Winnipesaukee. One of his favorite places to fish is in Webster Lake because it is not only a large body of water, there is also a higher probability of someone catching a four- or five-pound bass.

Weather conditions also play an important role. For example, when it is raining, you want to use flashy lures like spinner baits to catch the attention of the bass, and when it is sunny, the bass tend to hide under logs for shade. Morales said ideal weather conditions for bass fishing are slightly cloudy days, with warmer temperatures.

At the end of the tournaments, judges will weigh their live catches, and then release them back into the water.

“You need to release the fish gently without harming it,” said Justin Braza, 15, freshman from Milford. “You need to respect the fish, and the sport.”   

The tournaments also give younger fishers the chance to learn from older fishers who often attend tournaments as boat captains and mentors.

“The older fishers like to teach us different things. They might give advice about where to fish because of the time of day or water temperature. I’ve learned a lot from them,” said Smith. “The sport is really growing here. It’s not an uncommon sport down South. It’s different up here, but more people are starting to participate.”

To help pay for the club, the team received sponsorships from Suburban Masonry Corporation, D.W. Smith Plumbing, and J.R.P Electrical. The sponsors, coupled with the students’ and school’s contributions, allowed each student to receive a personalized fishing jersey.

“I think I learned a lot of real-world skills through the tournaments just by interacting with people I didn’t know,” said Polymeros. “I learned a lot about getting familiar with people, and starting different conversations and asking for advice.”

Christian Yapor can be reached at 508-634-7521, or at cyapor@wickedlocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChristianYapor.